UK Teen Girls Increasingly Unhappy, Poorer Body Image

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

New data shows that girls in Britain became unhappier between 2008 and 2013, while the happiness of boys remained stable.

Out of 10 to 15-year-old girls in England, Wales, and Scotland in the 2013-2014 school year, 14% were unhappy with their lives as a whole, and 34% were unhappy with their appearance. They reported feeling ugly and worthless.

Over the five-year span, an average of 11% of both boys and girls said they were unhappy.

The percentage of girls worried about their looks rose 4% in the 2013-2014 year, while the proportion of boys who said the same remained steady at 20%.

Emotional and psychological bullying against girls, such as name-calling, is twice as common as physical bullying is among boys.

More than 32,000 girls in Wales alone are estimated to be unhappy with their looks. More than 13,000 girls there are unhappy with life as a whole out of a total of 97,600. Since there was “no evidence of geographical variations in well-being,” the percentages from the United Kingdom as a whole can be extrapolated to just Wales, says Thomas Deacon of Wales Online.

This means that ~700,000 girls across the UK are unhappy with their looks, and more than 283,000 are not happy with their life as a whole.

One teenage girl said:

“Girls feel pressured by the boys that they should look a particular way and that leads girls into depression or low self-esteem and makes girls feel ugly or worthless.”

This Good Childhood Report is the Children’s Society’s 11th annual report based on its Understanding Society Survey. Each year they gather data on 40,000 households in the UK.

Lucy Capron of the Children’s Society said:

“What’s new and what the Children’s Society have unveiled is the scale of the problem — particularly the fact that the gap between boys and girls is getting wider and that’s something we should be worried about.”

… Some other research has shown that girls are spending a lot more time on social media– up to three hours a night in some cases– and we need to make sure that’s done in a safe way.”

It’s thought that more time on social media leads to more comparison with peers and therefore more dissatisfaction with one’s life and appearance.

The trend is likely to recur in upcoming reports, says Damien Sharkov of Newsweek.

Recently, the Department for Education published similar statistics about the psychological well-being of teenage girls in England, which has worsened since 2005. This study highlighted the pressures that social media places on young girls as well as the economic recession that created a more serious generation of youths.

In another study done by the Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years, children under ten (and particularly girls) are expressing more and more unhappiness with their bodies. According to Judith Burns of the BBC, they have also grown more likely to describe themselves or another child as fat, to compare their looks to another person, or to refuse food out of the fear that they will gain weight.