One in three girls feel overwhelmed by worry often or all the time, survey finds

Mind and Body

Nearly one in three (31%) girls feel overwhelmed by worry often or all the time, compared with 11% of boys, according to a report published today by public health charity Addaction (PDF).  

  • More than one in five (21%) girls aged 13 to 17 said they think about hurting themselves some or all of the time, twice the rate of boys.
  • Nearly one in five girls (19%) said they have a close friend who self harms, compared with 11% of boys.
  • 40% of girls think many or most people their age self harm, compared with 20% of boys.

The findings are based on a survey of more than 8,500 students from 51 secondary schools in Kent, Cornwall and Lancashire. The survey was carried out as part of Addaction’s Mind and Body programme, aimed at young people who self harm, or are  vulnerable to self harming behaviours.

Rick Bradley from Addaction, who leads Mind and Body, said the findings offer “a clear indication that increasing numbers of young people are really struggling.”

“There is mounting evidence that adolescent life can be overwhelming for many young people, with data indicating it feels particularly tough for girls and young women. We must do more to address this but it is difficult when schools and support services are stretched and the threshold for CAMHS (childhood and mental health services) has never been higher.”

Mental health

Asked about mental health, 28% estimated they felt down or depressed on at least six days in the previous month. This increased to 38% among girls.

Rick added: “It’s not easy for young people today. In some ways they’ve never been more connected, but these interactions can carry a lot of pressure, especially through social media, with  negative impacts on people’s body image and self esteem. We also know many young people struggle with academic pressures and the intensity of the education system. When you factor in changes in hormones, responsibilities and relationships, it can make teenage years really challenging.

“Our message to young people is you’re never alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling.

“It’s also a tough time to be a parent but family can play a huge role in offering support. It’s never too early to start open and honest conversations about how your kids are feeling. It doesn’t have to be a huge event, it’s about letting them know we’re there to listen and that no conversation is out of bounds.”

Mind and Body Group

Media contact

Mark Byrne | Head of Media | Addaction

T: 020 7017 2747 | M: 079 6628 7949 | E: mark.byrne@addaction.org.uk

About this survey

The results contained in this report are based on anonymised data drawn from a self-assessment survey. From January 2017 to March 2018 we collected 8,531 individual responses across 51 schools in Cornwall, Kent, and Lancashire. The young people surveyed were between 13 and 17.

The survey is not statistically representative, and neither is this a peer reviewed study. Our objective is to provide a picture, limited though it is, of self reported attitudes and behaviour among young people we work with.

The survey does not ask individuals whether they personally self harm. Our focus groups found that young people are less likely to engage if we ask the question directly as part of the survey. Instead, the survey explores other factors which may indicate vulnerability. Direct discussions and questions about self harm take place in groups and one-to-one sessions as part of the Mind and Body programme itself.

About Mind and Body

Mind and Body is led by Addaction, a national public health charity. Mind and Body is for 13-17 year olds who self harm or are vulnerable to self harming behaviours. It is predominantly schools-based, and is designed to help young people who need support but don’t meet the threshold for mental health services like CAMHS (NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

Mind and Body helps those most in need. It begins with an assembly-style talk to school year groups. High vulnerability students are identified through a confidential self-assessment survey. These students are enrolled in the Mind and Body programme which is centred on facilitated group sessions to encourage safe and open conversations about self harm and mental health.

Our facilitators work with young people to help them develop coping behaviours, communication skills, and to reduce feelings of isolation.

Between 2016 and 2018 more than 1300 young people completed programmes in Kent, Cornwall, and Lancashire. An evaluation by researchers at the University of Bath showed 81% of participants had fewer self harm thoughts, 91% reduced self harm actions and 73% reported better emotional wellbeing.