Are 14 year olds the new high risk group? 
Are Teenage Girls in The UK Suffering More with Mental Health? 
Are 14 year olds the new high risk group? 
From societal beauty standards to gender inequality, to social media comparisons, teen girls around the world are suffering with their mental health at a dangerous rate. 
Not only are teens in the United Kingdom struggling with depression and anxiety, more and more are reporting lower levels of self-esteem, and general dissatisfaction with themselves and their life. If left untreated these mental difficulties can quickly snowball into behaviours far more destructive. 
So, why are teen girls in the UK suffering so greatly with their mental health? Let’s talk about it. 
The United Kingdom’s Mental Health Statistics: 
With mental health rates in teenage girls on the rise globally, how does the UK measure up? Unfortunately, the numbers are quite alarming. 
• By 18, girls in the UK are twice as likely to experience mental health conditions than boys. 
• In England, girls as young as 11 have been reporting signs of mental illness. 
• In 2021, 25% of girls (aged 17-19) in England reported experiencing psychological distress. 
• Between April 2021 - October 2021, eating disorders and self-harm rose by 77%. 
• 15% of teens in the UK reported self-harming within the last year. 
o 73% of those teens were girls. 
• 1 in 10 teenagers in the UK reported feeling depressed 
o 78% of those teens were girls. 
• 25% of teenagers in the UK have reported feeling completely unhappy with their life. 
o 63% of those teens were girls. 
• Another 25% of teenagers in the UK reported low self-esteem and negative self-image. 
o 79% of those teens were girls. 
These statistics show the incredibly unnerving mental health gap between boys and girls in the United Kingdom. While boys are by no means immune, females suffer far more than males at the hands of mental illness and self-destructive behaviours. These behaviours may be a result of untreated mental health concerns, or as a cry for help. Whatever the reason may be, it’s time to talk about what factors are causing this widening gap to exist. 
The Damaging Effects of social media: 
It’s no secret that social media plays an extensively damaging role in the mental health of teen girls. According to a recent study, girls who spent less than 2 hours a day on social media were 37% less likely to report feeling unhappy with their life. 
Social media in general has been linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. Mix that with a sensitive, developing brain and you have a recipe for disaster. 
Social media is one “highlight reel” after another, making teen girls feel as though their lives aren’t as glamorous, exciting, or adventurous. This can easily cause feelings of resentment or inadequacy in their own lives. 
In addition, with filters and photoshop, teen girls are flooded each and every day with messages about their bodies. What they should look like, how much they should weigh, what they should eat, and how they’re supposed to dress can all become overbearing and lead to a mountain of mental struggles with their self-worth. 
How Poverty Plays a Role: 
Another factor linked to the alarming decline in teen girls' mental health is lower socioeconomic status. In the same study mentioned above, teenage girls from families earning the least per year were 43% more prone to feeling unsatisfied with their life, than girls from top-earning homes. 
The stress that comes with poverty can be overwhelming for teenagers and has been linked to higher rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and behavioural problems. 
Having a close relationship with their parents seems to be a buffer against mental health struggles in teen girls, however, with many lower socioeconomic parents working multiple jobs, this connection often becomes strained. 
The Problem of Gender Inequality: 
Gender inequality has been shown to have a devastating effect on teen girls' mental health with problems ranging from higher stress levels to depression. 
With consequences that begin at birth, gender inequality affects both women and girls in terms of status, power, wealth, and overall, wellbeing. 
This type of inequality can mean girls are far more likely to experience violence and assault at a younger age. Sexual harassment, bullying, and unfair expectations that boys simply don’t experience are all examples of the way gender inequality infiltrates girls' lives early on. 
Teenage girls in the UK that experienced bullying were 10 times more likely to report negative emotions and mental health struggles than those who were rarely victims. This statistic alone shows the devastating effects gender-based bullying can have on young girls. 
What Is Being Done to Support Mental Health in The United Kingdom’s Teenage Girls? 
Many psychologists and researchers are now turning away from the idea that schools should solely bear the responsibility of teen girls' mental health. While their intentions are pure, without formal training or professional knowledge, they may be doing more harm than good. 
While more of a daunting task, wider, systemic change is required in order to see long lasting progress in young girls. Gender inequality and poverty are at the top of the list, alongside public health, and education strategies to protect these vulnerable youth. 
However, some researchers feel as though teenage girls respond more positively to programs that address the individual’s mental health, rather than focusing on society as a whole. Whether they realize it or not, young girls tend to internalize systemic problems and shift the blame onto themselves, simply for being female. 
While an exact plan is still up in the air, there’s no doubt something to be done. Thankfully, this problem is no longer being ignored, and young girls are going to start getting the help they desperately need. 
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