Deliberate self-harm behaviors in Chinese adolescents and young adults

  • Yu-Hui Wan
  • Chuan-Lai Hu
  • Jia-Hu Hao
  • Ying Sun
  • Fang-Biao Tao
Original Contribution


The aim of this paper was to describe the prevalence of deliberate self-harm (DSH) and to determine the socio-demographic, behavioral, and psychological correlates of DSH behaviors in Chinese adolescents and young adults in a representative sample of the general population. The data were obtained from an epidemiologic study involving adolescents and young adults from junior and senior schools and colleges located in eight provinces of China. A total of 17,622 cases were retained for analysis. The relationship between the explanatory variables with self-harm was analyzed using a Pearson χ 2 test and a multinomial logistic regression model. A total of 3,001 (17.0%) students reported that they had harmed themselves deliberately in the past 12 months. The act of DSH occurring 1 and >2 times accounted for 4.2% (742) and 12.8% (2,259) of all respondents, respectively. The most frequently reported form of DSH was self-hitting. If the reference category was No DSH, the findings indicated that family composition, father’s education, perceived family economic status, cigarette use, perceived body image, and higher scores in depression scales were important concomitants of repeat-incidents of DSH. The students, in western areas, who were younger, reported that having unhealthy weight control behaviors, and alcohol use had a higher risk for both types of DSH. Regarding students of age 15–18 years perceived body image (too fat), having unhealthy weight control behaviors or a high level of depression symptoms demonstrated an elevated risk for repeat-incident DSH when single-incident DSH was used as the reference category, whereas the students in middle area reported family composition (both parents), education of the father (less than college) or alcohol use had a decreased risk for repeat-incident DSH. The results of this study suggest that both types of DSH are associated with other wide-ranging problems in the students’ lives. Despite their common features, these phenomena also differed from each other. It is necessary to investigate the possible neurobiologic underpinnings of DSH within a longitudinal study to enhance the knowledge of this behavior.


Self-harm Adolescents Young adults Mental health 



The authors are indebted to the research assistants and specialists for their generous assistance in the survey conducted in Harbin, Bejing, Taiyuan, Chongqing, Guiyang, Wuhan, Shaoxing, and Guangzhou. Sincere thanks also go to the head teachers, teachers, and children of the schools who participated in the study for their help and cooperation. The study was supported by China 863 National High Technology Research and Development Project (2006AA02Z427).

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yu-Hui Wan
    • 1
  • Chuan-Lai Hu
    • 1
  • Jia-Hu Hao
    • 1
  • Ying Sun
    • 1
  • Fang-Biao Tao
    • 1
  1. 1.Anhui Provincial Key Laboratory of Population Health and Aristogenics, Department of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, School of Public HealthAnhui Medical UniversityHefeiChina

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