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Risk of depression and self-harm in teenagers identifying with goth subculture : a longitudinal cohort study.

Bowes, L. and Carnegie, R. and Pearson, R. and Mars, B. and Biddle, L. and Maughan, B. and Lewis, G. and Fernyhough, C. and Heron, J. (2015) 'Risk of depression and self-harm in teenagers identifying with goth subculture : a longitudinal cohort study.', Lancet psychiatry., 2 (9). pp. 793-800.


Background Previous research has suggested that deliberate self-harm is associated with contemporary goth subculture in young people; however, whether this association is confounded by characteristics of young people, their families, and their circumstances is unclear. We aimed to test whether self-identifi cation as a goth is prospectively associated with emergence of clinical depression and self-harm in early adulthood. Methods We used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a UK community-based birth cohort of 14 541 pregnant women with expected delivery between April 1, 1991, and Dec 31, 1992. All children in the study were invited to attend yearly follow-up visits at the research clinic from age 7 years. At 15 years of age, participants reported the extent to which they self-identifi ed as a goth. We assessed depressive mood and self-harm at 15 years with the Development and Wellbeing Assessment (DAWBA) questionnaire, and depression and self-harm at 18 years using the Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised. We calculated the prospective association between goth identifi cation at 15 years and depression and self-harm at 18 years using logistic regression analyses. Findings Of 5357 participants who had data available for goth self-identifi cation, 3694 individuals also had data for depression and self-harm outcomes at 18 years. 105 (6%) of 1841 adolescents who did not self-identify as goths met criteria for depression compared with 28 (18%) of 154 who identifi ed as goths very much; for self-harm, the fi gures were 189 (10%) of 1841 versus 57 (37%) of 154. We noted a dose–response association with goth self-identifi cation both for depression and for self-harm. Compared with young people who did not identify as a goth, those who somewhat identifi ed as being a goth were 1·6 times more likely (unadjusted odds ratio [OR] 1·63, 95% CI 1·14–2·34, p<0·001), and those who very much identifi ed as being a goth were more than three times more likely (unadjusted OR 3·67, 2·33–4·79, p<0·001) to have scores in the clinical range for depression at 18 years; fi ndings were similar for self-harm. Associations were not attenuated after adjustment for a range of individual, family, and social confounders. Interpretation Our fi ndings suggest that young people identifying with goth subculture might be at an increased risk for depression and self-harm. Although our results suggest that some peer contagion operates within the goth community, our observational fi ndings cannot be used to claim that becoming a goth increases risk of self-harm or depression. Working with young people in the goth community to identify those at increased risk of depression and self-harm and provide support might be eff ective. Funding Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council Programme.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:Copyright © Bowes et al. Open Acess article distributed under the terms of CC BY.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:13 April 2016
Date of first online publication:27 August 2015
Date first made open access:No date available

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