Almost a quarter of girls and one tenth of boys show signs of depression at age 14, say researchers from the University College London.
In a study of more than 10,000 young people looking at how many of them exhibited signs of depression, 24% of girls and 9% of boys seemed to be depressed at the age of 14.
The researchers also questioned whether parents are attuned to the true level of depression among female teenagers, after the study showed differences in the depressive symptoms girls reported and the estimates parents made.
As part of the analysis of data, which was available for children born in 2000/2001 who are taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study, the researchers asked parents about the state of their children’s mental health at the ages of three, five, seven, 11 and 14. Once the children turned 14, they themselves were also asked about their mental health.
The findings, which are published with the National Children’s Bureau, showed that emotional problems were at a similar level among girls and boys until they reached adolescence, at which point the problems were more common among girls.
But, parents tended to underestimate how stressed their daughters were and had concerns about their sons that the boys did not voice, meaning some parents may be unaware of their daughter’s depression.
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.”
Praveetha Patalay, lead author
Experts believe that many factors could be contributing such as concerns about body image and the stress associated with exams.
Chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, Anna Feuchtwang says the current study, which provides data on thousands of children offers the most compelling evidence available about the degree of mental ill health among children in the UK. She thinks it is now beyond doubt that this problem is reaching crisis point and that it is vital for both children and their parents to be able to make their voices heard, to increase early identification and access to specialist support.
Dr Marc Bush from the charity Young Minds says it is crucial that funding is provided for mental health services, with a focus being placed on early intervention.