London– Researchers have found that teenage girls are suffering far worse mental health and wellbeing issues than boys.
The study from the University of Warwick was based on more than 11,000 UK teenagers found that around 15 per cent (approximately 1,650) reported self-harm in the last year.
Among them more than seven in ten (73 per cent) were girls – more than double the rate for boys (27 per cent), the research added.
The study, published in the journal Research Papers in Education, suggests 14-year-old girls have become the new high-risk group, and this is linked to gender inequality such as sexist notions around body type.
Poverty is another significant factor — the study found teenagers from families earning the least were significantly (48 per cent) more likely to report low life satisfaction than those from the wealthiest homes.
“Current policy places the onus to resolve inequality on individuals, such as young people, teachers and parents,” said study lead author Dimitra Hartas from the University of Warwick.
“Young people respond by focusing more on the self and less on the societal structures likely to promote mental ill health. Girls and young women tend to internalise systemic problems and blame themselves,” Hartas said.
For the findings, the research team analysed data collected in 2015 by the Millennium Cohort Study, a major research project into children’s lives.
Questions included how often teenagers self-harmed, their closeness to their parents, how often they were bullied or bullied others, and the number of hours spent on social media.
One in 10 teenagers reported depressive characteristics and low mood and, among them, teenage girls were significantly more likely to experience negative moods (78 per cent versus 22 per cent). Similar trends are seen in reports of happiness and self-image.
A quarter of teenagers felt completely unhappy with girls nearly doubling the rate (63 per cent versus 37 per cent).
Over a quarter of young people reported a low sense of their own value, including poor self-image, with girls being over three times more likely than boys (79 per cent versus 21 per cent).
In addition to gender, bullying and social media also had negative consequences for 14-year-olds.
Those bullied most days or once a week were ten times more likely to report negative feelings than teenagers who were seldom victims.
Young people spending less than two hours a day online were 37 per cent less likely to report lower life satisfaction than those spending five or more hours.
The study also identifies links between positive parenting and good mental health. Self-harm and negative outlooks decreased in boys and girls who were emotionally close to their parents, and whose mothers and fathers always knew their children’s whereabouts.
“An explanation could be that vigilant parents are more likely to alert children to the possibility of risk and violence,” Hartas said.
“As parental influence declines, relationships with young people the same age become more important — meeting friends often out of school or playing with them unsupervised was found to have a positive impact on mood and outlook,” Hartas added. (IANS)