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Research Spotlight: Girls’ Happiness Plummets as They Reach Teenage Years

The World Health Organisation collaborative Health Behaviour in School-aged Children-authored report reveals that girls who rate their happiness as high dropped from 81 per cent at aged 11 to 55 per cent at 15.

Comparatively, boys experienced a smaller decrease in happiness, results showing a fall from 81 per cent at aged 11 to 74 per cent at aged 15, suggesting that young girls are overall less satisfied with their lives once hitting teenage years.

The Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care at the University of Hertfordshire revealed additional shocking statistics in their report. Results show that nearly three times as many 15-year-old-girls than boys said they self-harmed, and with that, more likely to report self-harming on a frequent basis.

Worryingly these results continue to reveal concerning issues, highlighting that half of 15-year-old-girls also said their body is too fat and that as they aged from 11 to 15 they were more likely to experience feelings of loneliness, lack of focus and tiredness in comparison to their male counterparts.

The report also explored aspects of physical health. It found that only 15 per cent of girls and 22 per cent of boys were able to get the recommended 60 minutes of exercise per day, a concerning result all-round for the younger generation.

In addition, approximately a fifth of minors revealed that they were not getting enough sleep to feel awake and concentrate at school, suggesting that personal health standards have slipped over the years for this age range.

Professor Fiona Brooks, an author of the report and head of adolescent and child health research at UH, said:

“This report tells an important story about young people’s health right now in England, traditional risk behaviours are in decline which is great news but what will be of concern to teachers, parents and families are the more negative results of emotional well-being and positive behaviours such as physical activity.”

The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children report highlighted more positive results too in that levels of drunkenness had fallen from 55 per cent in 2002 to 32 per cent for girls and 29 per cent for boys in 2014.

In addition, rates of smoking fell, with only 6 per cent of boys smoking weekly compared to 21 per cent in 2002 and eight per cent of girls smoking weekly compared to 28 per cent in 2002 too.

What’s more, rates of sexual activity have been on the decline with just under 15 per cent of 15-year-olds reporting having sex compared to 38 per cent in 2002.

Jane Ellison, Parliamentary undersecretary of state for Public Health, comments:

“We should welcome the fact that many young people are making much healthier life choices as this will lead to a healthier future of the UK as a whole. However, there is much yet to do and we remain vigilant to the pressure young people and especially girls face, and by 2020 we will invest an extra £1.25 billion in children and young people’s mental health services.”

The results of this report therefore offer a basic framework for an action plan to improve the future of the UK’s children, their health and their welfare.


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