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One in four girls depressed by age 14

A quarter of girls and one in 10 boys depressed by 14, research finds

Published on 20th September 2017

One in four girls are depressed by the age of 14-years-old, according to the latest research.

The UCL Institute of Education and the University of Liverpool found that a quarter of girls and one in 10 boys showing symptoms of depression.

Lead author, Dr Praveetha Patalay, said: “In recent years, there has been a growing policy focus on children’s mental health. However, there has been a lack of nationally representative estimates of mental health problems for this generation.

“In other research, we’ve highlighted the increasing mental health difficulties faced by girls today compared to previous generations and this study further highlights the worryingly high rates of depression.”

Researchers analysed information on more than 10,000 children born in 2000-01 who are taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study. At ages 3, 5, 7, 11 and 14, parents reported on their children’s mental health. Then, when they reached 14, the children were themselves asked questions about their depressive symptoms.

The research found that:

  • Generally, 14-year-olds from better-off families were less likely to have high levels of depressive symptoms compared to their peers from poorer homes.
  • Parents’ reports of emotional problems were roughly the same for boys and girls throughout childhood, increasing from 7 per cent of children at age 7 to 12 per cent at age 11.
  • At age 14, emotional problems became more prevalent in girls, with 18 per cent having symptoms of depression and anxiety, compared to 12 per cent of boys.
  • Boys were more likely than girls to have behaviour problems throughout childhood and early adolescence.

Professor Emla Fitzsimons, Director of the Millennium Cohort Study, said: “These stark findings provide evidence that mental health problems among girls rise sharply as they enter adolescence; and, while further research using this rich data is needed to understand the causes and consequences of this, this study highlights the extent of mental health problems among young adolescents in the UK today.” 

 

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