April 17, 2006

“Goth” youths more likely to self-harm: study

LONDON (Reuters) - Young people who adopt the "Goth"
lifestyle of dark clothes and introspective music are more
likely to commit self-harm or attempt suicide than other
youngsters, according to a study on Friday.

"Although only fairly small numbers of young people
identify themselves as belonging to the Goth subculture, rates
of self-harm and attempted suicide are very high among this
group," said Robert Young, lead researcher of the Glasgow
University study.

The Scottish team described Goths as being a subgenre of
Punk "with a dark and sinister aesthetic, with aficionados
conspicuous by their range of distinctive clothing and makeup
and tastes in music."

Shock rockers such as Marilyn Manson are said to be popular
amongst Goths and the subculture has often attracted suspicion
and criticism from the media.

Two U.S. students who massacred 13 people at Columbine High
School in Colorado in 1999 were said to have been fascinated by
the Goth image.

The Glasgow researchers studied of 1,258 young people who
were quizzed at the ages of 11, 13, 15 and 19 about self harm
and their links to various youth cultures.

In the UK, the rate of self harm among young people is
between 7-14 percent.

Although other subcultures were associated with self harm,
such as Punk, the link was strongest with Goths.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, found
that 53 percent of those who were linked to the Goth subculture
reported self-harm and 47 percent had attempted suicide.

Even adjusting for other factors, such as alcohol abuse and
previous depression, Goth identification was the strongest
predictor of self harm or suicide attempts, the report said.

"One common suggestion is they may be copying subcultural
icons or peers," Young said.

"But since our study found that more reported self-harm
before, rather than after, becoming a Goth, this suggests that
young people with a tendency to self-harm are attracted to the
Goth subculture."

Michael van Beinum, a child-and-adolescent psychiatrist,
said the Goth subculture might be attractive to young people
with mental health problems, allowing them to find a community
where their distress might be more easily understood.