More than a fifth of 14-year-old girls in the UK said they had self-harmed, a report suggests.

A survey of 11,000 children found 22% of the girls and 9% of the boys said they had hurt themselves on purpose in the year prior to the questionnaire.

Rates of self-harm were worst (46%) among those who were attracted to people of the same or both genders.

The Children’s Society report said gender stereotypes and worries about looks were contributing to unhappiness.

The self-harm statistics are included in the charity’s annual Good Childhood Report, which examines the state of children’s wellbeing in the UK.

The data on self-harm was analysed by The Children’s Society after being collected in 2015 in the Millennium Cohort Study, a continuing research project following the lives of 19,000 children born in the UK between 2000 and 2001.

More than 11,000 of these children answered a questionnaire about whether they had hurt themselves on purpose in any way in the past year. Out of the 5,624 girls who responded, 1,237 said they had self-harmed.

Self-harm is when people hurt themselves as a way of dealing with difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences.

It can include everything from punching or hitting to cutting or burning.

Based on the figures, The Children’s Society estimates that 109,000 children aged 14 may have self-harmed across the UK during the 12-month period in 2015 – 76,000 girls and 33,000 boys.

It follows NHS data released this month that showed the number of admissions to hospital of girls aged 18 and under for self-harm had almost doubled in two decades, from 7,327 in 1997 to 13,463 in 2017.

The NSPCC says common reasons for self-harming include:

  • depression
  • bullying
  • pressure at school
  • emotional abuse
  • grieving
  • having relationship problems with family or friends

Matthew Reed, chief executive at The Children’s Society, said: “It is deeply worrying that so many children are unhappy to the extent that they are self-harming.

“Worries about how they look are a big issue, especially for girls, but this report shows other factors such as how they feel about their sexuality and gender stereotypes may be linked to their unhappiness.”

An 18-year-old woman who used to self-harm said she had started aged 12 in an attempt to deal with painful or overwhelming feelings.

She said: “It quickly became an obsession.

“My self-harm problem caused me to lie to those who cared about me, time and time again, as I pushed away the people around me.”

– Alex Therrien

Read More: Fifth of 14-year-old girls in UK ‘have self-harmed’

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