Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 48, Issue 9, pp 1447–1455 | Cite as

Nonsuicidal self-harm and suicide attempts in adolescents: differences in kind or in degree?

  • Anita J. Tørmoen
  • Ingeborg Rossow
  • Bo Larsson
  • Lars Mehlum
Original Paper



The purpose of the present study was to measure the prevalence of self-harm (SH) behaviours and examine potential differences in characteristics among adolescents reporting on self-harm (SH), depending on whether they had attempted suicide (SA), performed nonsuicidal self-harm (NSSH), or both.


Cross-sectional survey of 11,440 adolescents aged 14–17 years in the city of Oslo, Norway. Responses regarding measures of lifetime SH and risk factors were collected. The response rate was 92.7 %. Data were analysed by segregating SH responses into the categories of NSSH, SA, and NSSH + SA.


Among all respondents, 4.3 % reported NSSH, 4.5 % reported SA, 5.0 % reported both NSSH and SA, and 86.2 % reported no SH. The group reporting to have engaged in both behaviours comprised more girls and reported more suicidal ideation, problematic lifestyles, poorer subjective health, and more psychological problems compared with the other groups. The four groups could be distinguished by one discriminant function that accounted for most of the explained variance.


Our findings suggest that NSSH and SA are parts of the same dimensional construct in which suicidal ideation carries much of the weight in adolescents from a school-based sample. They also indicate the group of adolescents who seems to alternate between NSSH and SA is more burdened with mental ill-health and behavioural problems compared with others. These adolescents should therefore be targeted by clinicians and school health personnel for identification and provision of adequate help and services.


Self-harm Suicide attempts Adolescents General population 



The assistance of John Eriksen, PhD, and of the Norwegian Social Research (NOVA) is gratefully acknowledged. Finance was supported by the Norwegian Extra Foundation for Health and Rehabilitation through EXTRA funds and from the National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, University of Oslo, Norway. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anita J. Tørmoen
    • 1
  • Ingeborg Rossow
    • 1
    • 3
  • Bo Larsson
    • 2
  • Lars Mehlum
    • 1
  1. 1.National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, Institute of Clinical MedicineUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Neuroscience, Regional Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental HealthNTNUTrondheimNorway
  3. 3.Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug ResearchOsloNorway

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