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'Sharp rise' in 11-13 year-old girls feeling unhappy and anxious

By Geraldine Bedell

 

Girls in years 7 and 8 are more worried, nervous and unconfident than they were five years ago, a new study has found. Researchers say this may be a result of seeing sexualised images of women on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, as well as in advertisements.

The research compared a sample of 11-13 year-olds in 2011 with a similar sample in 2014. Lead author, Dr Elian Fink, from University College London, said the researchers were 'surprised to see such sharp spike in emotional problems among girls.'

The figures suggest that an average of three girls in every class feel sad or nervous. The proportion of girls likely to be suffering emotional problems in the first two years of secondary school has risen from 13% to 20% in five years and is probably the result of a mix of factors, the researchers say, but includes the impact of digital media and the portrayal of women.

Boys' mental health has remained stable.

Recent resarch by the Government Equalities Office suggests that body image deteriorates as girls go through school.

Nine out of 10  girls think that statements in the media about girls and women focus too much on what they look like and not enough on their achievements. 

For help, see our article based on the Government Equalities Office's work on how to minimise the impact of girly stereotypes, How stereotypes stop you being you; and our article from women's campaigning organisation Purple Drum, exploring the impact sexualised images of women - not least women from ethnic minorities - has on girls, Why media images can ruin girls' lives.