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Goth Teens At Higher Risk Of Depression And Self-Harming Behaviors

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The dark eyeliner, dyed black hair and black fingernails could be a cry for help.

Latest study conducted by researchers from the United Kingdom found that goth teens are more likely to be clinically depressed than those who are not.

Their findings, which were published [pdf] in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, showed that young people who were strongly identified with the goth subculture at the age of 15 were three times more likely to be clinically depressed and four times more likely to cause self-harm by the age of 18, compared with those who were not.

For their study, the researchers gathered data from the UK Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC[2]). Findings were based on the analysis of 3,694 teenagers who provided information on depressive mood and self-harm, and how strongly they identified with the goth subculture at the age of 15. The teens also provided information on depression and self-harm at 18 years. Apart from the goth subculture, the researchers also looked at how the participants were identified with other subcultures like loners, skaters, sporty, popular, keeners, chavs, or bimbos.

According to the researchers, the likelihood of depression and self-harm increased as teens were self-identified more with the goth subculture. Teenagers who were "very much" identified as goths were over three times more likely to be clinically depressed. Those who were "somewhat" identified with the goth subculture were likely to score in the clinical range for depression at 18 years old, only by 1.6 times. As for those who did not self-identify with the subculture, the risk for depression and self-harm was least likely.

"Our study does not show that being a goth causes depression or self-harm, but rather that some young Goths are more vulnerable to developing these conditions," said Dr. Lucy Bowes from UK's University of Oxford, who is also the lead author of the study.

The researchers emphasized that their study is observational, and not one of cause and effect. They clarified that their research cannot claim that merely becoming a goth leads to a greater risk of depression and self-harm. They also added that the goth subculture may provide validation and may provide a community where the non-conformist youth can be understood.

Dr. Rebecca Pearson from the University of Bristol, and co-author of the study further highlighted how the goth subculture embraces individuals of varying backgrounds, even those with mental health problems. Young people at risk for depression and who have a tendency to self-harm might be attracted to the subculture.

Other subcultures like loners and skaters were also associated with depression and self-harm, but association was strongest among Goths.

Photo: Chrix Lanier | Flickr

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