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Lifetime prevalence of self-injurious behaviour among US college students is 17%

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Q How common is self-injurious behaviour in college students in the US?


Embedded ImageDesign:

Cross sectional study.

Embedded ImageSetting:

Two universities, North-Eastern USA; 2005.

Embedded ImagePopulation:

2875 graduate and undergraduate students (56% female; 73% between 18 and 24 years old; 65% white; 92% heterosexual).

Embedded ImageAssessment:

Participants completed an online questionnaire that assessed lifetime frequency of self-injurious behaviour, age of onset, severity, affected parts of the body and whether formal help was sought. It also assessed risk factors for self-injurious behaviour, presence of other conditions known to be linked with self-injurious behaviour, recent psychological distress, suicide-related behaviours, and help-seeking behaviours. People who injured themselves in an attempt to commit suicide were not included in the self-injurious behaviour category, as self-injurious behaviours are acts that are carried out without suicidal intent.

Embedded ImageOutcomes:

Incidence of self-injurious behaviour.


The lifetime prevalence of self-injurious behaviour was 17% and the 12-month prevalence was 7%. Average age of onset of self-injurious behaviour …

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  • For correspondence: Janis Whitlock, PhD, MPH, Family Life Development Center, Beebe Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA; jlw43{at}

  • Sources of funding: Cornell University School of Human Ecology Seed and Innovation Grant, US.