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Why are British teenage girls becoming more unhappy?

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Hayley Spencer
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It's no secret that our early teens are some of the most angst-filled years of our lives, but a saddening new report reveals that girls aged 10-15 are becoming more unhappy.

Research collated by the Children's Society says 14% of girls aged 10 to 15 are unhappy with their lives as a whole and that 34% are unhappy with their appearance, according to the BBC.

The Good Childhood Report for 2016 comprises figures from 2013-2014 from girls and boys in the age group living in 40,000 households in England, Wales and Scotland. It also compares how girls and boys' happiness levels have changed since 2009-10.

The findings show that a gap has opened up between the sexes, with the level of girls feeling discontent on the rise. Previously 11% of both boys and girls reported feeling unhappy, but the 2013-14 figures show that 14% of girls now feel unhapppy with their lives, whereas the figure for boys remains the same.



The research also suggests that girls are becoming more self-conscious of their appearance, with the number unhappy with their looks rising from 30% to 34%. This was also a female-specific increase, as figure for boys remained the same, at 20%.

Teenage girl

Unsurprisingly, researchers analysing the figures suggested that social media could have contributed to the increase in pressure for teens to feel like they look 'good'.

'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,' says Lucy Capron from the Children's Society.

The figures may reflect the fact that two of the most popular teen social media sites peaked in popularity between the timelines of the two reports. Instragram achieved 100 million active users as of April 2012, while Snapchat hit the mainstream in February 2013 with 60 million snaps a day being posted.



A teenager interviewed by the BBC backed Capron's suggestions, telling them that social media has made her self-esteem more fragile: 'Say you post a picture of yourself on Instagram or Snapchat, and you think you look really pretty or you really like that one, but then you get a nasty comment saying 'That's ugly' or something really negative. Then you don't really want to put a picture on again.'

Another girl explains that social networks add pressure to compare yourself to others. 'When I'm looking through my Facebook and looking at some of the posts, all you can see is pictures of celebrities and my friends looking beautiful in selfies and everything, and then there's just me, like, I can't get away from any of it,' she said.

Of course, there are many pressures - from success at school, to discovering their sexuality and their home lives - juggled by teens that influence their happiness. But as Capron emphasises, it is essential we take the findings seriously and tackle the issues head on.

'This isn't something which can be explained away by hormones or just the natural course of growing up,' she told the BBC.

Images: iStock

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