The findings from the latest Good Childhood Report – which gathers informations about the wellbeing of children from 15 different countries, across four separate continents – are in. And sadly, they don’t look amazing.
Team GB might have excelled at the Olympics, but it looks like the nation is far from golden when it comes to raising happy, confident children – especially girls. Out of the 15 countries that are ranked in the Good Childhood Report, England came in last.
The report revealed that one in seven girls said they weren’t happy with their lives overall, while a third don’t feel happy with the way they look. While this might come as a shock to adults, for anyone who’s been in high school recently, it probably won’t come as much of a surprise.
One of the girls involved in the study explained:
“We’re expected to be perfect, like Barbie dolls or something and if we don’t then we get bullied.”
In fact, girls have become less happy with their lives and the way they look over the last five years. Another teenage girl said:
“There are so many things that are difficult about being a young person. There are so many pressures from your friends, from your family. You don’t know who you are going to be, you are trying to find who you are in a certain way.”
We all know what she means, don’t we? The Instagram stars that seem to have their whole lives sorted aged 15; all those advertising campaigns full of models with wide eyes, tiny waists and symmetrical features; the interrogation from family members who demand to know what you want to do with the rest of your life before you’ve even worked out what subjects you’re taking for your GCSEs.
Boys aren’t immune to the pressures of modern life either; despite being happier than girls overall, one in nine boys is unhappy with their lives and one in five is unhappy with the way they look.
But the sort-of-good news for boys is that those numbers haven’t changed that much over five years. Obviously, it would be better if everyone was happy and skipping and singing the Friends theme song at all times, but at least that’s something. For boys.
So what’s the reason for the gap?
Excellent question. It’s not entirely clear why this happiness gap exists but one theory is that emotional bullying, such as being called names or people posting nasty stuff on your Instagram, is twice as common as physical bullying.
And in news that will probably not come as a surprise to anyone, girls are more likely to be victims of emotional bullying, while boys are more likely to be physically bullied.
One of the girls in the study explained:
“There is a lot of pressure to look good, you get called names no matter what, people always say stuff behind your back, boys always call you ugly if you have spots, or a slag if you wear makeup.”
Also, girls also tend to spend more time on social media, which can have a negative impact on mental health. It’s true, you can even ask Biebs.
Reasons to be cheerful
But let’s look beyond the gloom to some bright spots on the horizon, shall we?
There are so many great body-positive campaigns happening right now putting the spotlight on people of colour, disabled people and girls’ rights to their own bodies. From L’Oreal’s True Match campaign that celebrates skintone diversity, to #SREnow’s initiative to provide information about sex and relationships at schools, to the Maltesers advert that featured a woman with cerebral palsy getting real about her sex life.
Hopefully now that the media is (slowly) moving towards more diverse representations of girls and women, we might see a new wave of body positivity that will, in time, turn the tide. And fingers crossed when the next Good Childhood Report is released in 2017, girls in the UK might be feeling a little bit happier.
And by the way…
Your mental health is so important. If you feel so unhappy about anything that it is making life difficult, there’s a lot of help available out there. You can talk to a teacher, a parent, guardian or relative, or you can visit the Childline site for more information.