Bowes, L., Carnegie, R., Pearson, R., Mars, B., Biddle, L., Maughan, B., Lewis, G., Fernyhough, C.
& Heron, J. (2015). Risk of depression and self-harm in teenagers identifying with goth subculture: a longitudinal cohort study. Lancet Psychiatry 2
Author(s) from Durham
Background Previous research has suggested that deliberate self-harm is associated with contemporary goth subculture
in young people; however, whether this association is confounded by characteristics of young people, their families, and
their circumstances is unclear. We aimed to test whether self-identifi cation as a goth is prospectively associated with
emergence of clinical depression and self-harm in early adulthood.
Methods We used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a UK community-based birth cohort
of 14 541 pregnant women with expected delivery between April 1, 1991, and Dec 31, 1992. All children in the study were
invited to attend yearly follow-up visits at the research clinic from age 7 years. At 15 years of age, participants reported the
extent to which they self-identifi ed as a goth. We assessed depressive mood and self-harm at 15 years with the Development
and Wellbeing Assessment (DAWBA) questionnaire, and depression and self-harm at 18 years using the Clinical
Interview Schedule-Revised. We calculated the prospective association between goth identifi cation at 15 years and
depression and self-harm at 18 years using logistic regression analyses.
Findings Of 5357 participants who had data available for goth self-identifi cation, 3694 individuals also had data for
depression and self-harm outcomes at 18 years. 105 (6%) of 1841 adolescents who did not self-identify as goths met
criteria for depression compared with 28 (18%) of 154 who identifi ed as goths very much; for self-harm, the fi gures were
189 (10%) of 1841 versus 57 (37%) of 154. We noted a dose–response association with goth self-identifi cation both for
depression and for self-harm. Compared with young people who did not identify as a goth, those who somewhat
identifi ed as being a goth were 1·6 times more likely (unadjusted odds ratio [OR] 1·63, 95% CI 1·14–2·34, p<0·001), and
those who very much identifi ed as being a goth were more than three times more likely (unadjusted OR 3·67,
2·33–4·79, p<0·001) to have scores in the clinical range for depression at 18 years; fi ndings were similar for self-harm.
Associations were not attenuated after adjustment for a range of individual, family, and social confounders.
Interpretation Our fi ndings suggest that young people identifying with goth subculture might be at an increased risk for
depression and self-harm. Although our results suggest that some peer contagion operates within the goth community,
our observational fi ndings cannot be used to claim that becoming a goth increases risk of self-harm or depression.
Working with young people in the goth community to identify those at increased risk of depression and self-harm and
provide support might be eff ective.
Funding Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council Programme.