Young people who adopt the “goth” subculture might be at increased risk of depression and self-harm, according to UK researchers.
Teenagers who identified very strongly with being a “goth” at the age of 15 were found to be three times more likely to be clinically depressed and were five times more likely to self-harm at age 18 than young people who did not identify with the goth subculture.
Lead researcher Dr Lucy Bowes, from Oxford University, said: “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.”
Contemporary goth youth subculture has been linked with deliberate self-harm, but until now whether this association is confounded by the characteristics of young people, their families or their circumstances was unclear, said the researchers in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.
They analysed data on 3,694 teenagers to investigate whether identifying with the goth subculture at age 15 was linked with depression and self-harm in early adulthood.
Participants were also asked about identification with a variety of other youth subcultures – “sporty”, “populars”, “skaters”, “chavs”, “loners”, “keeners”, and “bimbos”.
The researchers found that the more young people identified with the goth subculture, the higher their likelihood of self-harm and depression.
For example, compared to young people who did not identify as a goth at age 15, those who “somewhat” identified as a goth were 1.6 times as likely to have scores in the clinical range for depression at age 18.
“Teenagers who are susceptible to depression or with a tendency to self-harm might be attracted to the goth subculture”
Those who “very much” identified as belonging to the goth subculture were more than three times as likely to be depressed.
Although some other subcultures were also associated with adult depression and self-harm – skaters and loners – the associated was strongest for goths.
Young people who self-identified as “sporty” were least likely to have depression or self-harm at age 18.
“Teenagers who are susceptible to depression or with a tendency to self-harm might be attracted to the goth subculture which is known to embrace marginalised individuals from all backgrounds,” said study co-author Dr Rebecca Pearson, from Bristol University.
“Alternatively, the extent to which young people self-identify with the goth subculture may represent the extent to which at-risk young people feel isolated, ostracised, or stigmatised by society,” she said.
“These young people may be attracted to like-minded goths who face similar stressors,” she added.