Talking About Female Self-Harm for International Women's Day

March 8, 2021 Martyna Halas

Self-injury can affect anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, or gender. However, recent studies suggest that female self-harm is soaring for reasons that include poverty, sexual abuse, cyberbullying, and unrealistic beauty standards. This International Women's Day, let's talk about why young women self-harm.

What Researchers Say About Female Self-Harm 

Sadly, self-injury is rapidly increasing across all age groups and genders. However, female self-harm has skyrocketed in particular, affecting one in five women aged 16 to 24 in the UK alone.1

In the US, researchers observed a nearly 20 percent increase in emergency room admissions due to self-injury among girls aged between 10 and 14.2 An Australian study reports equally worrying statistics, estimating that 45 percent of women aged 18 and 23 engage in self-harm and are more likely than men to require hospitalization due to their injuries.

Without a doubt, we can see that female self-harm is a global problem, with many experts citing gender inequality, poverty, and sexism as the leading causes.

Why Young Women Engage in Female Self-Harm

While the statistics are heartbreaking enough, it is crucial to understand why young women hurt themselves. Various researchers and study groups report the following factors that drive up the rates of female self-harm:

  • Teenage depression: A 2019 study found that depression is rapidly increasing among teen girls, with 20 percent reporting low mood, negative self-worth, and poor body image.2
  • Social media: Both adults and teenagers are now constantly connected with the online world. Excessive social media use can lead to poor sleeping patterns and low self-esteem, often contributing to teenage depression and self-harm among young girls.
  • Cyberbullying: Online bullying is another alarming problem among teens as victims are unable to escape the ever-present digital threat. Research shows that girls are three times more likely to be cyberbullied than boys, with practices varying from online shaming to revenge porn.2
  • Body shaming: The sexist notions around body types are likely to affect many girls who feel unable to match today's impossible beauty standards. In fact, many social media platforms like Snapchat or Instagram tend to focus on appearance rather than content, which is most acutely felt by girls.5
  • Violence: According to Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk, physical and sexual abuse are often key reasons why many women self-harm. This includes experiences such as domestic violence and sexual abuse that occurred in childhood or adulthood.1
  • Poverty: Teenagers from low-income families are significantly more likely to report low life satisfaction than those growing up in wealthy families. They are also less likely to have access to mental health resources and clinical support.4

As women, we tend to blame ourselves for the shortcomings that we think we have, and we internalize the pressures of the outside world, forever chasing the expectations that we can't possibly match. No wonder our mental health takes its toll. Isn't it time we taught girls and young women that they are enough?

What are your thoughts on female self-harm? Let us know in the comments section below.


  1. Campbell, D., "One in Five Young Women Have Self-Harmed, Study Reveals." The Guardian, June 2019. 
  2. Polanin, M., “Self-Injury Is Increasing in Teenage Girls: What Can Parents Do?” National Center for Health Research, Accessed March 7, 2021. 
  3. Women's Health Victoria, “Spotlight on Women and Self-Harm.” Spotlight, March 2018. 
  4. Taylor and Francis Group, "Large UK Study Shows Teenage Girls Far More Likely to Self-Harm." EurekAlert, December 2019. 
  5. Nicholson, C., "More Teenage Girls Are Self Harming Than Ever Before – Here’s Why." The Conversation, October 2017. 

APA Reference
Halas, M. (2021, March 8). Talking About Female Self-Harm for International Women's Day, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 15 from

Author: Martyna Halas

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Laura Miles
November, 1 2021 at 4:55 am

Women of all ages self harm, we need to get rid of the stigma around only young people, as this can be really damaging.

Lizanne Corbit
March, 9 2021 at 5:00 pm

This is a powerful and informative read that anyone could benefit from. These conversations are so important because they help us understand what is truly taking place in our world. This, in particular, is such an important concept for all women to read, and realize they are not alone in: "we tend to blame ourselves for the shortcomings that we think we have, and we internalize the pressures of the outside world, forever chasing the expectations that we can't possibly match." The more we can learn to be gentle with ourselves and gentle with one another, the more we can all rise.

April, 5 2021 at 7:49 am

Hi Lizanne,
Thank you for this comment. You're right; women have to support and empower each other, but more importantly, be gentle with themselves. We have to prove ourselves twice as hard in so many situations: from a professional setting to receiving medical care (proving that our endometrial pain is real, for instance). And of course, the main culprit: being judged by our appearance rather than abilities. This is a lot to take on, and the last thing we need is to be our own enemies. Things are changing, but there's still plenty of work to do--and I hope the conversation will continue beyond March.
Wishing you a wonderful day! :)

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