Young heavy metal fans are five times more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide, a new study has found.
Researchers from the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool found that groups belonging to alternative subcultures – which also include goths and emos – are at far greater risk of hurting themselves, possibly because they feel isolated from the rest of society.
Clinical psychologist Dr Peter Taylor, of the University of Manchester, said doctors, teachers and social services should look out for signs of self abuse or depression in youngsters who visibly identified as goth or heavy metal fans.
“We’re not saying that doctors should be worrying about everyone wearing a Metallica t-shirt, but if there are also other signs which point towards self harm, then they definitely ask the question,” said Dr Taylor.
“Many people become affiliated with these groups because they feel like they don’t fit into society and so face a lot of vulnerabilities.
“But there also might be victimisation and stigma associated with belonging to these subcultures.”
The new study reviewed 12 papers looking at the link between belonging to subcultures and the risk of suicidal behaviour or self-harm.
In one Scottish study researchers found that around six per cent of schoolchildren had self-harmed or attempted suicide, but that rose to 24 per cent for those who belonged to the subcultures. When taking all studies into account, goths, emos and heavy metal fans were five times more likely to harm themselves.
“The belief that alternative subcultures may be at an increased risk of self-harm and suicide is considered by some to be a myth,” added Dr Taylor.
“But the literature we reviewed does suggest that these individuals are indeed in greater danger.”
Dr Taylor said specific support groups for heavy metal fans, goths or emos could help tackle the problem.
Dr Mairead Hughes, from the University of Liverpool said: “There is not enough evidence to tell us why it is that people belonging to these subcultures are at greater risk.
“Young people who have faced more adversity may be more likely to become part of a subculture, but this does not seem to fully explain the increased risk.
“Stress associated with being different and belonging to a minority group may also explain some of the risk”
The research was published British Journal of Clinical Psychology.