By age 14, one-quarter of girls depressed
New research suggests that a quarter of all girls are depressed at age 14, while one in 10 boys are depressed at the same age.
At ages 3, 5, 7, 11 and 14, parents reported on their children’s mental health. Then, when they reached 14, the children were themselves asked questions about their depressive symptoms.
Based on the 14-year-olds reporting of their emotional problems, 24% of girls and 9% of boys suffer from depression.
The research, published with the National Children’s Bureau, also investigated links between depressive symptoms and family income. Generally, 14-year-olds from better-off families were less likely to have high levels of depressive symptoms compared to their peers from poorer homes.
Parents’ reports of emotional problems were roughly the same for boys and girls throughout childhood, increasing from 7% of children at age 7 to 12% at age 11. However, by the time they reached early adolescence at age 14, emotional problems became more prevalent in girls, with 18% having symptoms of depression and anxiety, compared to 12% of boys.
Behaviour problems, such as acting out, fighting and being rebellious decreased from infancy to age 5, but then increased to age 14. Boys were more likely than girls to have behaviour problems throughout childhood and early adolescence.
As 14-year-olds’ own reports of their emotional problems were different to their parents’, this research highlights the importance of considering young people’s views on their own mental health.
The lead author, 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.”
Millennium Cohort Study Director 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 in the UK today.”
National Children’s Bureau Chief Executive Anna Feuchtwang 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 heard to maximise the chances of early identification and access to specialist support.
The full study, entitled ‘Mental ill-health among children of the new century’, can be found here.
You can listen to Dr Patalay discuss how a child’s mental health can be affected by their date of birth on a podcast, which can be found here.
Originally published here.
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