Predicting the incidence of non-suicidal self-injury in college students

G. Kiekens*, P. Hasking, L. Claes, M. Boyes, P. Mortier, R. P. Auerbach, P. Cuijpers, K. Demyttenaere, J. G. Green, R. C. Kessler, I. Myin-Germeys, M. K. Nock, R. Bruffaerts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Despite increased awareness that non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI)poses a significant public health concern on college campuses worldwide, few studies have prospectively investigated the incidence of NSSI in college and considered targeting college entrants at high risk for onset of NSSI. Methods: Using data from the Leuven College Surveys (n = 4,565; 56.8%female, M age = 18.3, SD = 1.1), students provided data on NSSI, sociodemographics, traumatic experiences, stressful events, perceived social support, and mental disorders. A total of 2,163 baseline responders provided data at a two-year annual follow-up assessment (63.2% conditional response rate). Results: One-year incidence of first onset NSSI was 10.3% in year 1 and 6.0% in year 2, with a total of 8.6% reporting sporadic NSSI (1–4 times per year)and 7.0% reporting repetitive NSSI (≥ 5 times per year)during the first two years of college. Many hypothesized proximal and distal risk factors were associated with the subsequent onset of NSSI (ORs = 1.5–18.2). Dating violence prior to age 17 and severe role impairment in daily life were the strongest predictors. Multivariate prediction suggests that an intervention focused on the 10% at highest risk would reach 23.9% of students who report sporadic, and 36.1% of students who report repetitive NSSI during college (cross-validated AUCs =.70–.75). Discussion: The college period carries high risk for the onset of NSSI. Individualized web-based screening may be a promising approach for detecting young adults at high risk for self-injury and offering timely intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-51
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Emerging adults
  • Incidence
  • NSSI
  • Prediction
  • Prevention
  • Self-injury


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