A few months ago I was asked to provide insights on BBC Breakfast TV alongside representatives from Girlguiding UK, in response to the findings of findings of their ‘Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2018’ that found that the mental health and well-being of girls aged 7-21 has declined significantly in just a handful of years. This is unsurprising given the rise of social media and with it, as I discuss in the relationships chapter in Anxiety Free, the rise of social comparison, knocks to one’s self-image, difficulty embracing one’s identity, a lack of authenticity, insincere ‘relationship-building’ activities in a bid for ‘popularity’, conflict, bullying, and more.
Below are a few of the findings taken from their report and the video of me talking about this on BBC Breakfast TV in September 2018.
- Only 25% of girls and young women aged 7-21 say they are very happy, down from 41% in 2009. A stark difference in just 10 years.
- 64% of girls and young women aged 11-21 say they know someone who has experienced an anxiety disorder, compared with 50% in 2014. That’s a big difference over a period of just 5 years.
- 27% of young women aged 17-21 are not happy, an increase from 11% in 2009
- 45% of girls and young women aged 7-21 say feeling unhappy affects how confident they feel
- 50% of girls and young women aged 11-21 say feeling unhappy affects their health
- 31% of girls aged 7-10 say feeling unhappy affects them having fun with their friends
- 51% of girls aged 7-10 say they are very happy with how they look compared to 44% in 2009
- But 41% of young women aged 17-21 say they are not happy with how they look compared to 30% in 2009
- 59% of girls aged 11-21 say social media is one of the main causes of stress. Ten years ago social media wasn’t included in the survey – Facebook was only five years old and Instagram, Whatsapp and Snapchat didn’t exist!
- 69% of girls and young women aged 11-21 say exams and tests are the main cause of stress among girls their age
- 36% of girls and young women aged 11-21 have spoken up to make their views known about an issue they care about, up from 28% in 2011.
How astounding and at the same time sadly unsurprising are some of those figures!
Let’s be frank, social media has a number of ill effects on adults; imagine the impact it has on the developing identity and self-esteem of young girls and on the developing brain.
That young people are speaking up more now than in 2011, is a good thing but clearly, there is still room for improvement and how speaking up is promoted and then handled by caregivers and teachers will help improve this further. And this is important. If young people feel they are heard, understood and helped with tools to equip them to deal with the challenges they face, many of which are new challenges that we never faced in our own childhood and early adulthood, then young people will believe it is helpful to talk about such issues and when they do, we can help shape the mental health and well-being of innocent children and the vulnerable young people of today, and those who will be shaping the world we live in tomorrow.
Here I am talking about this research on BBC Breakfast TV and get in touch if you want to discuss simple, effective strategies for raising happy, healthy young people in your school, college or university: