Study highlights gender gap in adolescent mental health

The gender gap in mental ill health and wellbeing widens from childhood into early adolescence, according to a University of Liverpool led study.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and UK Government funded research, led by Dr Praveetha Patalay from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, identified several risk factors for girls and boys experiencing high symptoms of depression by the time they were fourteen.

Some of the risk factors identified include being overweight and bullied for both boys and girls, and being less well off and having higher cognitive ability for girls. The findings were based on a detailed questionnaire involving 9,553 boys and girls from across the UK.

The research, using data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) managed by the Centre for Longitudinal studies, is tracking the progress of people born in 2000 into adulthood. The University of Liverpool reports the results add to the growing evidence that teenage girls are particularly vulnerable to mental health difficulties.

Praveetha Patalay said “Our research shows that girls from families in the bottom two quintiles of household income are 7.5% more likely to be depressed at 14 than girls from the highest income families, but the same pattern was not found in boys. We found a substantial link between being overweight and being depressed. Rates of overweight and mental ill-health are increasing in childhood, and they both have enormous consequences through our lives. Tackling these two health issues should be a public health priority.”

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