The number of teens who harm themselves is increasing, according to a study of statistics on emergency room visits. Using information from the National Trauma Data Bank, researchers found that the number of teens who went to the emergency room because of trauma that they had inflicted on themselves rose between 2009 and 2012.
In that time period, there were 286,678 children and teens aged 10 through 18 who suffered a trauma serious enough to need a visit to the emergency room. Of those, 3,664 had injured themselves, which included attempts to commit suicide. The rate of self-injury went from 1.1% of all trauma visits in 2009 to 1.6% of all trauma visits in 2012.
Cutting or piercing was the most common type of injury seen. Poisoning was the least common form of self-injury.
Forty-eight percent of girls who had self injured had cut or pierced themselves. Among boys, the most common self-inflicted injury was trauma due to firearms, at 34.4%. The number of teens overall who were treated for self-inflicted firearms injuries went down between 2009 and 2012, from 27.3% of self-inflicted injuries to 21.9%.
Girls were more likely to injure themselves than boys. However, boys were more likely to have injured themselves seriously enough to risk dying from their trauma. This is because the types of self-injury more common in boys were also more likely to be lethal. Teens with a self-inflicted injury had a higher risk of death than teens who went to the emergency room for all other types or sources of trauma.
Only a little under 5% of teens who went to an emergency room with a self-inflicted injury were diagnosed as having a mental disorder. The study noted that there is a high risk of a teen who has injured himself or herself to try self-injury again or to try to commit suicide.
The study appeared in the journal Pediatrics.