- Girls are more than twice as likely to report mental health problems as boys
- Poor girls are nearly twice as likely to report mental health problems than rich girls.
One in four teenage girls believe they are suffering from depression, according to a major study by University College London the children’s charity the National Children’s Bureau (NCB).
The research which tracked more than 10,000 teenagers found widespread emotional problems among today’s youth, with misery, loneliness and self-hate rife.
24 per cent of 14-year-old girls and 9% of 17-year-old boys reported high levels of depressive symptoms compared to only 9% of boys.
However, when parents were asked about their perceptions of mental-health problems in their children, only 9% of parents reported that their 14 year old girls had any mental health issue, compared to 12% of boys. (Possibly because boys manifest in more overt ways, or because boys are simply under-reporting)
Anna Feuchtwang, NCB chief executive said: “This study of thousands of children gives us the most compelling evidence available about the extent of mental ill health among children in the UK, and Lead author of the study Dr Praveetha Patalay said the mental health difficulties faced by girls had reached “worryingly high” proportions.
Ms Feuchtwang said: “Worryingly there is evidence that parents may be underestimating their daughters’ mental health needs.
Dr Marc Bush, chief policy adviser at the charity YoungMinds, said: “We know that teenage girls face a huge range of pressures, including stress at school, body image issues, bullying and the pressure created by social media.
The above data is based on more than 10,000 children born in 2000/01 who are taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study.
Parents were questioned about their children’s mental health when their youngsters were aged three, five, seven, 11 and 14. When the participants were 14, the children were themselves asked questions about mental health difficulties.
The research showed that girls and boys had similar levels of mental ill-health throughout childhood, but stark differences were seen between gender by adolescence, when problems became more prevalent in girls.
Variations by class and ethnicity
Among 14-year-old girls, those from mixed race (28.6%) and white (25.2%) backgrounds were most likely to be depressed, with those from black African (9.7%) and Bangladeshi (15.4%) families the least likely to suffer from it.
Girls that age from the second lowest fifth of the population, based on family income, were most likely to be depressed (29.4%), while those from the highest quintile were the least likely (19.8%).
The research also showed that children from richer families were less likely to report depression compared to poorer peers.
Links to Sociology
What you make of this data very much depends on how much you trust it – if you take it at face value, then it seems that poor white girls are suffering a real crisis in mental health, which suggests we need urgent research into why this is… and possibly some extra cash to help deal with it.
Again, if you accept the data, possibly the most interesting question here is why do black African girls have such low rates of depression compared to white girls?
Of course you also need to be skeptical about this data – it’s possible that boys are under-reporting, given the whole ‘masculinity thing’.
On the question of what we do about all of this, many of the articles point to guess what sector….. the education sector to sort out the differences. So once again, it’s down to schools to sort out the mess caused by living in a frantic post-modern society, on top of, oh yeah, educating!
Finally, there’s an obvious critical link to Toxic Childhood – this shows you that the elements of toxic childhood are not evenly distributed – poor white girls get it much worse than rich white girls, African British girls, and boys.
Sources and a note on media bias
You might want to read through the two articles below – note how the stats on class and ethnicity feature much more prominently in the left wing Guardian and yet how the right wing Telegraph doesn’t even mention ethnicity and drops in one sentence about class at the the end of the article without mentioning the stats.