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UK girls becoming more miserable – study – BBC News

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Image caption Girls’ levels of happiness deteriorated in the five years to 2014, suggests the research

Girls in Britain are becoming more miserable, suggests the Children’s Society’s annual report.

Among 10 to 15-year-old girls, the charity’s report says 14% are unhappy with their lives as a whole, and 34% with their appearance.

Researchers were told of girls feeling ugly or worthless.

The figures for England Wales and Scotland, for 2013-14, represent a sharp rise in unhappiness on five years before.

By contrast the study found that boys’ sense of happiness remained stable.

Worrying about their appearance

The charity’s annual Good Childhood Report, now in it’s 11th year, draws its findings on teenagers’ happiness from the Understanding Society Survey which gathers data on 40,000 households across the UK.

Children’s Society and University of York researchers examined responses on the well-being of 10 to 15-year-olds.

They found that between 2009-10 and 2013-14 on average 11% of both boys and girls said they were unhappy.

But the latest available figures, for 2013-14, showed the proportion of girls saying they were unhappy had risen to 14%.

The proportion of girls reporting being worried about their looks rose from 30% for the period as a whole, to 34% in the year 2013-14 – while the proportion of boys unhappy with their appearance remained unchanged at 20%.

“It is desperately worrying that so many of our young people are suffering rather than thriving,” said Children’s Society chief executive Matthew Reed.

“Girls are having a particularly tough time and it’s clear that concerted action is needed to tackle this problem.”

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Image caption Girls spend more time on social media which has links to poorer mental health, the report notes

The reasons for the deteriorating picture for girls are not clear says the charity – but the report finds that emotional bullying, such as name-calling, is twice as common as physical bullying among boys.

The report also suggests that girls are more likely to spend extended periods on social media which has been linked to a higher risk of mental ill health.

One girl suggested that girls are subject to a greater range of pressures.

“Girls feel pressured by boys that they should look a particular way and that leads girls into depression or low self esteem,” said one.

“There are so many pressures from your friends, from your family,” said another.

Body shape

In another study, childcare professionals have published evidence that children could be worrying about being fat or ugly at a younger age, with girls particularly affected.

The Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years says staff have noticed children as young as three being worried about their appearance.

Overall, nursery staff, childminders and nannies looking after under-10s in England, reported hearing children:

  • expressing unhappiness with parts of their bodies and with their body size
  • describing themselves or another child as fat
  • saying they feel ugly or less good looking than someone else
  • refusing food for fear it will make them fat.

The risk is that these views could prompt eating disturbances and depression later in life, according to Middlesex University child development lecturer, Dr Jacqueline Harding.

She suggested that media images and adults chatting about diets could lead to negative body images in children.

Parents can help boost body confidence, for example by praising children for acts of kindness rather than for their looks, she advised.

The association is calling for more support and government guidance on these issues.

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37223063

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