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Trends and context in women’s mental health

Mental health
Published: June 2019

This research produces temporal trends for a range of different indicators of mental disorder, taking a gender-informed perspective on context and risk.

Aim 

This research produces temporal trends for a range of different indicators of mental disorder, taking a gender-informed perspective on context and risk.

Findings

The first output from this study is an open access paper published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

It shows that the lifetime prevalence of non-suicidal self-harm in England rose from 2.4% in 2000, to 3.8% in 2007, and to 6.4% in 2014.

In the 2000 and 2007 waves of Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, prevalence was similar in men and women, but in 2014 became significantly higher in women (7.9%) than men (5%).

Prevalence increased in several age-by-sex groups, but the absolute increase was greatest in young women: in 2014, 19.7% of 16-24 year old women reported NSSH in face-to-face interviews, compared with 6.5% in 2000, and 11.7% in 2007.

The prevalence of using self-harm in order to relieve unpleasant feelings of anger, tension, anxiety, or depression rose between 2000 and 2014, from 1.4% to 4.0% in men, and from 2.1% to 6.8% in women. Although the use of NSSH to cope with feelings increased across the population, this behaviour was most pronounced in women aged 16-24 in 2014 (17.7%).

There was no evidence of an increase in use of treatment as a result of self-harm. The proportion reporting no subsequent medical or psychological service contact after self-harm remained stable between 2000 (51.2%), 2007 (51.8%) and 2014 (59.4%). Men and younger people who self-harmed were less likely than women and older people who had done so to get treatment as a result.

There is a need for people – and especially young people – to learn about safer ways of coping with emotional stress. Professionals working in education, social care and criminal justice, as well as those in primary care, need to be aware of self-harm and prepared to talk about it with young people without normalising it.

Forthcoming outputs from the study consider gendered mental health risk factors, such as domestic violence.

Methods 

Secondary analysis of series of general population survey datasets, in particular the 2000, 2007 and 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS).

 

This is independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Policy Research Programme (PHPEHF50/27). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

Download from The Lancet