Teenage girls 'depressed by modern life'

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Girls as young as 14 now suffer from depression, are debilitated by hatred of their own bodies or feel unable to cope with the pressures of life.

Girls as young as 14 now suffer from depression, are debilitated by hatred of their own bodies or feel unable to cope with the pressures of life.

A survey has found that one in 10 teenage girls describes herself as an "emotional wreck", while 60 per cent feel insecure and more than half say they are plagued by self-doubt.

The survey of 2,000 girls with an average age of 14 for the teen magazine Bliss found that more than a third currently feel "unhappy and miserable".

Mental health specialists warned that girls as young as 14 are copying the binge-drinking and stressed-out behaviour of adults around them as they try to cope with the stresses of modern life. They said that family breakdown, bullying at school and society's obsession with the "perfect body" were fuelling the lack of confidence among pubescent girls.

More than a third questioned live with a single parent or in a step family. Four out of 10 said they regularly felt depressed about life, while six per cent did not feel life was worth living.

Two thirds complained about the heavy pressure to achieve academically, while more than half said family problems had taken a toll on their emotional health. And two thirds said they had been bullied at some point in their lives.

Lisa Smosarski, the editor of Bliss, said: "We live in a rough, tough world and there are no society safeguards any more to protect young people. They have gradually been eroded over the years, and even the few remaining ones are being ripped down. Cannabis has been downgraded and 24-hours-a-day drinking is on the horizon. It's a free for all, but young people need boundaries to feel secure."

She added: "Teenage girls are expected to cope with a cocktail of broken homes, endless school work, emotional pressures and the availability of drink and drugs. It is a cocktail that is seriously damaging the psyche of teenage girls."

Health specialists are concerned that the toll on the mental, physical and emotional health of teenage girls is being fuelled by worrying increases in their use of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. The number of girls under 14 who are hospitalised with mental health problems triggered by alcohol has risen by 25 per cent over the past seven years, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.

Teenage girls in Britain drink more than their male peers, with reports that some are developing serious alcohol-related liver problems before they reach their 16th birthdays.

The survey found that a third of 14-year-old girls are already drinking alcohol every week, while one in five has tried drugs. Four out of ten said drink and drugs are too readily available.

Tina Radziszewicz, a psychotherapist, said: "We live in a society where adults deal with the stresses of modern life by misusing alcohol and drugs and jumping from one sexual partner to another. Sadly, young people are copying what they see around them.

"This risky behaviour brings a whole new set of problems to teenage girls already struggling with worries about their exams, parents' relationships, boyfriends, bullying and the pressure to look perfect."

She went on: "Rather than blaming teenagers, everyone from parents to the Government needs to wake up to the fact that the emotional and mental health of our young people is in crisis."

PRESSURES OF ADOLESCENCE

Anna Ross will turn 14 next month. She lives with her mother, stepfather, brother and sister in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, and attends a local co-ed private school.

"I do feel really pressured, especially at school," she said. "We have a lot of homework and classes and it does really worry me. I keep having things go round and round my head and it can be difficult to cope with.''

According to Anna, most girls her age are under constant pressure from both each other and magazines and other media to stay slim.

"You have to look perfect and be perfect if you don't want to get picked on at school and that is really hard to achieve,'' she said.

"When we were younger it was just a bit of pushing around but now there is a lot of name calling and talking behind your back and it can be really difficult to know how to deal with that. There is a lot of bullying, especially at school.''

Girls in her peer group are already harming themselves and turning to drink to cope with their problems, Anna said. She added: "A lot of people my age do feel miserable and depressed about all the pressures they have got on them.

"Sometimes I feel okay but other times it really does just keep building up. I feel happy at home most of the time but things can get me down.''

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