A new study has revealed that young girls face growing risks of emotional problems. The number of girls affected by emotional issues has risen by 7 percent in 5 years, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Figures for boys remained fairly stable over the five-year period and charities believe that this is because girls face unique problems and pressures, such as a drive to achieve the perceived ‘perfect body’ image. Researchers believe that young girls are trying to fit in with largely unrealistic body images and beauty ideals, which are filtered through to society via websites and apps such as Instagram and Facebook. There are also issues about the increased sexualisation of women in photo shoots, films and music videos.
Scientists who were involved with the study, which involved 1,600 students aged between 11 and 13 years old in England, found that issues related to social behaviour and relationships with peers remained stable for both girls and boys. However, there was a sharp increase in the number of girls admitting to emotional problems. Researchers carried out the initial survey in 2009 and then repeated it 5 years later.
In an interview with the BBC, Dr Helen Sharpe from the University College London, suggested that funding cuts in mental health services could also play a part. This is because teachers tend to focus on behavioural problems that can lead to disruption in the classroom rather than emotional issues. Dr Sharpe believes that teachers should be provided with the right training and resources to enable them to spot the signs of emotional issues and address these problems.
Sarah Brennan from Young Minds, a charity that supports young people with mental health issues, claims that the study serves to highlight the deteriorating condition of mental health among children in this country. Young people face different pressures to previous generations and many youngsters who go to the charity for help mention problems including pressure to look a certain way, fit in with peer groups, exposure to round-the-clock media content, bullying and family breakdown.
In response to the survey, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has called for another poll to be conducted urgently to determine accurate statistics and identify ways of improving the situation going forward.