Who Engages in Nonsuicidal Self-Injury?

People of all ages, genders, ethnicities, and social classes self-injure. Research has shown that self-injury is most common in adolescence and young adulthood, with about 17-18% of young people reporting that they have engaged in self-injury at least once in their lives 1, 2. Current research suggests that self-injury most commonly begins between ages 12 and 15, although some people first start to self-injure before the age of 12 and some first self-injure much later in life; an age of onset before 12 is associated with more severe self-injury over a longer period of time [6]3. Typically rates of self-injury increase through early-mid adolescence and decline in later adolescence 4. However, recent research suggests a second peak in age of onset at around 20 years 5. A recent meta-analytic review showed that girls and women are slightly more likely to self-injure than boys and men, with this gender difference particularly evident in clinical samples.  6 Self-injury is more common among people who experience mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and eating or substance problems 7 8 9. However, not everyone who engages in self-injury has a mental disorder; some studies show about 15-20% of adolescents who engage in self-injury do not meet criteria for any disorder. 10 11 People who engage in self-injury report being more sensitive to interpersonal stress or conflict, and more difficulty expressing and regulating their emotions 12 13 14. Self-injury is also more common among adolescents and young adults who identify as bisexual or transgender 15 16