Teenagers who identify as goths are more vulnerable to depression and self-harm, say scientists.
Research published in the The Lancet Psychiatry journal found that those who were part of the sub-culture at age 15 were three times more likely to become clinically depressed and five times more likely to harm themselves when they reached 18.
Being a goth had the strongest association compared with other youth sub-cultures such as “chavs”, “populars”, “skaters” and “bimbos”, the study found.
“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,” said lead author Dr Lucy Bowes from the University of Oxford.
The analysis of responses by 3,694 teenagers also found that the more a young person identified as a goth, the higher the likelihood they would suffer depression or carry out self-harm. This remained true even when other factors, such as behavioural difficulties, bullying and family mental health background, were taken into account.
Those who identified as “sporty” were said to be the least likely to become depressed.
Study co-author Dr Rebecca Pearson, from the University of Bristol, said: “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, including those with mental health problems.
“’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. These young people may be attracted to like-minded goths who face similar stressors.”
The researchers pointed to the 2007 murder of Sophie Lancaster, a goth murdered because of the way she dressed, and the fact Greater Manchester Police had begun recording abuse towards groups such as goths, emos and punks as hate crimes as evidence the sub-culture faced social stigma.
They called for public campaigns to reduce the stigma and more work in the community to help identify those at risk.