Girls most anxious and unhappy with their mental health, according to report

·3-min read
 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Girls, particularly those aged 16 to 17, are more likely to be unhappy with their mental health, a new national survey has found.

According to the survey, older children between 16 and 17 years old (32 per cent) were more likely to report being unhappy compared to nine to 11-year-olds (nine per cent), with 40 per cent of girls aged 16 to 17 being unhappy with their mental health.

The Big Ask survey, carried out by the Children’s Commissioner for England, received more than half a million responses from children aged four to 17.

The results revealed widespread problems with eating disorders, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, with 20 per cent of children aged nine to 17 reporting being unhappy with their mental health the “top issue”.

When it comes to their futures, 69 per cent of respondents said that having a good job or career when they grow up was one of their main priorities.

Among children from minority ethnic groups, this priority is even higher, with 75 per cent of Asian children and 76 per cent of black children saying it is one of their top future priorities, compared with 68 per cent of white children.

Children from the most deprived neighbourhoods were also more likely to prioritise getting a good job in the future (72 per cent) compared to those living in the most affluent neighbourhoods (68 per cent).

But more than a third said whether or not they end up in a good job is one of their main worries about the future. Just over half of nine to 17-year-olds (52 per cent) think they are likely to have a better life than their parents when they grow older, while one in 11 (nine per cent) think they are unlikely to do so.

Dame Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner, wrote in the foreword of the report: “Within the home, the dividing line between childhood and adulthood has been blurred – offices and schools and bedrooms all collapsing into one another.

“Children have seen the world of adult work come close; adults, the world of school.

“This generation wants to get on and do well,” she continued. “To do tough, worthwhile jobs, and have fulfilling careers. Many want to be teachers and nurses and paramedics and doctors. They have seen their parents and carers struggle and they want to help them.”

The report comes as a BBC Investigation revealed that children struggling with mental health problems during the pandemic are facing long waits for care.

One in five children who were seen in the past year had to wait more than 12 weeks for treatment, data from half of England’s services showed.

The BBC reported that the average wait for a mental health service appointment was more than two months – exceeding eight in some areas.

A spokesperson for NHS England said there was “no doubt” that children and young people’s lives were turned “upside down” due to the pandemic, but said that the health service is investing in expanding support and rolling out school mental health teams.

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