Rates of self-harm among children are worryingly high, according to our Good Childhood Report. Read our statistics and facts on self-harm

Boy in a school yard looking into the camera

When someone hurts themselves on purpose, it’s defined as self-harm. It comes in many forms, and affects people from different backgrounds, ages and lifestyles. If you're worried about self-harming yourself or if a child you know is in danger, please read our advice page.

This year, our Good Childhood Report looked into self-harm in children, and uncovered some concerning facts and statistics that show the issue is more common than many people may imagine.

One in six young people have self-harmed in the last year

Of the more than 11,000 14-year-olds surveyed in the Millenium Cohort Study, 16% reported they had self-harmed in the last year. Based on these figures, nearly 110,000 children aged 14 may have self-harmed across the UK in the same 12-month period.

Girls are more than twice as likely to self-harm than boys

22% of 14-year-old-girls have self-harmed, compared to 9% of boys. While there isn’t direct research on the causes of this, there has been a growing trend of girls becoming unhappier with their lives since 2010.

Many problems girls face are associated with their overall happiness with their lives, but in particular their appearance.

'Feeling not pretty enough or good enough as other girls did contribute towards my self-harming' said one teenage girl, 'I felt like self-harming was what I wanted to do and had to do as there was nothing else I could do'.

Young people who are attracted to the same or both genders are at higher risk

Self-harm among 14-year-olds attracted to the same or both genders is significantly higher. Almost half of these young people are likely to have self-harmed, which is more than double the average figures.

In fact, on all measures of well-being and mental health, children who are attracted to the same or both genders scored much more negatively than other children.

Children with low well-being or poor mental health are more likely to self-harm

Self-harm is often related to emotional pain that is otherwise difficult to express, and many use it as a coping mechanism for other issues.

Over 60% of 14-year-olds with high depressive symptoms are reported to have self-harmed, and over 30% of 14-year-olds with high emotional and behavioural difficulties. 

Asking children to measure their overall life satisfaction has been shown to be a powerful predictor of self-harm, as nearly half of young people who report a low life satisfaction have also self-harmed.

Children from lower-income households are at higher than average risk

While household income shows a slightly weaker link than other signifiers of risk of self-harm, figures show that children from lower-income households are more likely to self-harm than those from higher income homes.

Children from the two lowest income groups both reported higher rates of self-harm than the average, at nearly 19%.

A worrying picture

These figures show that the need for support and services for young people across the UK is high.

A young person's self-reported well-being has been shown to be a powerful predictor of self-harm, so more must be done to tackle the root causes of children’s unhappiness.

For more information, explore our interactive summary for The Good Childhood Report 2018.

Read our Good Childhood report

If you are affected by self-harm, read our advice for young people and parents including guidance and links to support services.