Alarming news has come from the UK for parents of teenage girls, although for many it will come as no surprise. A new study has found 24 per cent of girls aged 14 suffer from depression, with only one in 10 boys reporting the same.
The results are from the University of Liverpool and University College London, which followed more than 10,000 children born during 2000-01 through their lives to their teen years.
Parents were asked to report on their child’s mental health at ages 3, 5, 7, 11 and 14. Then, age the age of 14, the children themselves were also asked to report on their own mental health.
The study found evidence that children from higher income families were less likely to suffer from mental health problems – with 14 year-olds from wealthier families less likely to have high levels of depressive symptoms than their less well off counterparts.
Both sexes reported similar levels of mental health issues, with emotional problems effectively around 7 per cent of children at age 7, and 12 per cent at age 11. But when children reached their teen years, that’s when gender became a defining characteristic.
Lead author of the study Dr Praveetha Patalay from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society said, “In recent years, there has been a growing policy focus on children’s mental health. However, there has been a lack of nationally representative estimates of mental health problems for this generation.
“In other research, we’ve highlighted the increasing mental health difficulties faced by girls today compared to previous generations and this study further highlights the worryingly high rates of depression.”
Director of the Millennium Cohort Study, Professor Emla Fitzsimons, said, “These stark findings provide evidence that mental health problems among girls rise sharply as they enter adolescence; and, while further research using this rich data is needed to understand the causes and consequences of this, this study highlights the extent of mental health problems among young adolescents…”
Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau says the evidence is compelling. “With a quarter of 14-year-old girls showing signs of depression, it’s now beyond doubt that this problem is reaching crisis point,” she said.
“Worryingly, there is evidence that parents may be underestimating their daughters’ mental health needs. Conversely, parents may be picking up on symptoms in their sons, which boys don’t report themselves. It’s vital that both children and their parents can make their voices heart to maximise the chances of early identification and access to specialist support.
“The new research also suggests that signs of depression are generally more common among children from poorer families. We know that mental health doesn’t exist in a vacuum and as the government prepares to publish its plans to improve children’s wellbeing, it must address the overlap with other aspects of disadvantage.”
If you suspect your child may be suffering from any mental health issues, it’s recommended you speak to your GP as a first course of action.
You can read the full study, Mental ill-health among children of the new century, here.