Goth teenagers have three times the depression risk, study says

It remains unclear whether depression links to interest in the subculture, or vice versa

An Oxford University study has found that teenagers identifying strongly with gothic subculture at the age of 15 endure three times the risk of depression and five times the risk of self-harm next to the average teenager.

The study, published by Dr Lucy Bowes and her team in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, is based on Avon Longitudinal Study data on depression and self-harm experienced by teenagers. Those involved made the subcultural identification at the age of 15, noting feelings and events up to the age of 18. Data from just under 3,700 teenagers was used.

“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,” Bowes told the Oxford University website.

“Teenagers who are susceptible to depression or with a tendency to self-harm may be attracted to the goth subculture, which is known to embrace marginalised individuals,” co-author Rebecca Pearson from the University of Bristol added.


Teenagers who identified as ‘skaters’ and ‘loners’ also had an increased propensity to adult depression and self-harm, the team suggest, but Bowes found that association was strongest amongst those who identify as ‘goth’. Teenagers who self-identified as ‘sporty’ were at lowest risk.

The team behind the study have stated that it is possible that “peer contagion” within the goth subculture was responsible for the link to depression, but added that the group could also be more attractive to the depressed than other subcultures.

The authors of the study hope that its findings can be used both as a valuable way to identify where additional help might be needed, and also to identify any differences in attitude that goths might have towards seeking help, in order to provide more effective future services.