An international comparison of adolescent non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicide attempts: Germany and the USA

P L Plener, G Libal, F Keller, J M Fegert, J J Muehlenkamp
Psychological Medicine 2009, 39 (9): 1549-58

BACKGROUND: This study examined the prevalence of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), suicide attempts, suicide threats and suicidal ideation in a German school sample and compared the rates with a similar sample of adolescents from the midwestern USA by using cross-nationally validated assessment tools.

METHOD: Data were provided from 665 adolescents (mean age 14.8 years, S.D.=0.66, range 14-17 years) in a school setting. Students completed the Self-Harm Behavior Questionnaire (SHBQ), the Ottawa Self-Injury Inventory (OSI) and a German version of the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D).

RESULTS: A quarter of the participants (25.6%) endorsed at least one act of NSSI in their life, and 9.5% of those students answered that they had hurt themselves repetitively (more than four times). Forty-three (6.5%) of the students reported a history of a suicide attempt. No statistically significant differences were observed between the German and US samples in terms of self-injury or suicidal behaviors.

CONCLUSIONS: By using the same validated assessment tools, no differences were found in the prevalence and characteristics of self-injury and suicidal behaviors between adolescents from Germany and the USA. Thus, it seems that NSSI has to be understood as worldwide phenomenon, at least in Western cultures.

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