Young girls in Britain struggling with their appearance as unhappiness levels soar, report finds

As boys' happiness levels remain stable, report comes at a time mental health issues among young people and students, in particular, are being heavily scrutinised

Jessica Frank-Keyes
Thursday 01 September 2016 12:12 BST
(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Soaring numbers of young girls in Britain are significantly more unhappy with their appearances and lives than they were five years ago, according to a new report.

Fourteen per cent of girls aged ten to 15 have said they are unhappy with their lives as a whole - an estimated 283,000 - while just over a third have admitted to not being happy with their appearance, totalling 700,000.

This picture has changed drastically from five years previously with the number who do not feel happy overall up 21 per cent, while those who are unhappy with their appearance up eight per cent over the same period.

The Good Childhood report, from charity The Children’s Society, was produced in connection with the University of York. Now in its 11th year, the findings have also shown happiness levels among boys to have remained stable when compared with their female counterparts.

The proportion of UK boys in the same age group who are unhappy with their lives as a whole has remained at 11 per cent. UK boys are also significantly happier with their appearance than girls, with those who are unhappy with the way they look also remaining consistent at 20 per cent.

The findings have come at a time when mental health, particularly among students and young people, is being put under the microscope. A recent YouGov survey revealed how one in three female students in the UK suffers with a mental health problem, in comparison to just a fifth of male students.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) also published findings in May, indicating student suicides have reached their highest levels since records began in 2007.

Good Childhood 2015 ranked England as last out of 15 countries in terms of children’s happiness with their appearances. The same report also revealed England also had “the most pronounced gender differences of all participating countries.”

A spokesperson from the charity told the Independent the findings indicated a “clear link between unhappiness and mental health problems,” and that The Children’s Society is calling on the Government to take action on childhood unhappiness.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of the charity, described the report’s findings as “desperately worrying.” He said girls in the UK are having a “particularly tough time,” adding: “It’s clear that concerted action is needed to tackle this problem.”

A spokesperson from the NSPCC also told the Independent that, in general, girls seem more open to the idea that it helps to talk about a problem, and they are much more likely than boys to be counselled about eating disorders, pregnancy, and self-harm.

The spokesperson continued: “They are also under constant pressure, particularly from social media, to attain a certain image which is often unrealistic.”

In response to the report’s findings, a government spokesperson said: “We want every young person to grow up feeling supported and confident about their future, and we are working with schools, parents, and the media to help improve young people's resilience, boost their confidence, and tackle bullying.”

However, the spokesperson did not provide comment on whether the Government would be implementing the suggestions for change as outlined in the report.

These policy recommendations include the introduction of a “legally binding entitlement” for children and young people to be able to access mental health and well-being support in educational settings, as well as calling on the Government to show a commitment to “understanding and acting on children’s well-being.”

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