The number of schoolgirls at risk of emotional problems has risen sharply, according to a study
Researchers from University College London (UCL) have found youngsters aged between 11 and 13 are now more likely to worry, lack confidence or feel nervous.
Scientists analysed questionnaires completed by 1,600 pupils in 2009 and compared them with similar surveys conducted five years later.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Adolescent Mental Health.
They show there was an average of three girls in every class last year feeling sad or nervous, compared to just one or two in a class in 2009.
Teenagers likely to suffer emotional problems also rose from 13 per cent in the 2009 study to 20 per cent in 2014.
Commenting on the research, Dr Elian Fink, lead author of the report, said: “Five years is a relatively short period of time, so we were surprised to see such a sharp spike in emotional problems among girls.
“The fact that other mental health issues stayed about the same makes us think that there must have been significant changes over the past five years which have specifically affected young girls.”
It has been suggested the rise may be attributed to stress brought on by seeing images of women portrayed as sex objects on Facebook, Twitter and other websites.
Dr Miranda Wolpert, a director at UCL and the Anna Freud Centre and co-author of the report, said there were many factors that could have contributed to the rise, including “academic pressure” and “increasing sexualisation and objectification amplified by social media”.
Recent research by the Government Equalities Office found that as young girls progress through school, their body image deteriorates rapidly.
According to the Body Confidence Progress Report 2015, poor body image is a ‘public health problem’ and an ‘equalities issue’.
It also says that can limit the opportunities available to women and girls.
Back in February this year, a report revealed that eating disorders cost the UK economy £8bn.
The findings, commissioned by charity Beat, found that around one in five sufferers wait more than a year for NHS treatment, with over a third waiting more than six months.