Happiness levels have declined for girls and young women, survey finds

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10th October 2018 16:47 - Health

Happiness levels have declined for girls and young women: A large survey of girls and young women in the UK has revealed some interesting insight into their thoughts and experiences, with light shed on happiness and mental health. 
 
The Girls Attitudes Survey 2018 for The Girl Guides is carried out every year and in 2018 polled 1903 girls and young women aged between seven and 21.
 
It found that across all age groups, happiness levels are down since 2009 when 40% said they felt ‘very happy’. Today just 25% of girls can say the same.
 
For girls aged 7-10 there has been a drop in happiness from 57% in 2009 to 43% in 2018. For girls 11 - 16 year-olds, the drop is 20 percentage points from 38% to 18% and for young women aged 17-21 years, the number of respondents saying they were 'very happy' has reduced from 29% in 2009 to just 14% in 2018
 
Looking at girls aged 11 -21, the survey found that nearly half said they have needed support dealing with their mental health. 
 
When asked 'which of these do you think are the main causes of stress among girls your age', 69% said exam stress, while in second position was 'pressure from social media' (59%). Interestingly, there are no comparisons to 2011 data for social media’ which is another reminder of the dramatic impact it has had in just seven years. 
 
Other causes of worry were 'relationships with friends’ (53%), ‘relationships with a partner' (44%) and 'pressure to look like a celebrity' (44%).
 
Experiences of depression 
 
When asked if they knew any girls their age who had experienced depression, 71% said yes, while 62% knew someone who had self-harmed. Almost two thirds (64%) were aware of someone they knew having an anxiety disorder, while 52% knew another girl who had experienced an eating disorder. Just over a third (36%) also revealed they knew someone who had viewed pornography. 
 
In terms of happiness, girls were asked which areas of their lives were most affected when they experienced feelings of unhappiness. Half of those polled said it affected 'how confident I feel', relationships with friends and family (41%), health (38%), having fun with friends (36%) and learning (32%). 
 
The comparison between girls and boys is also significant, with 9% of boys by the age of 14 reporting experiencing feelings of depression compared to just under a quarter of girls.


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