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Factors Impacting Young Women’s Mental Health in the UK

In the United Kingdom, adolescent mental health problems are well-known. The majority of female pupils in the North of England are affected by this issue. Female students outperformed male students on measures of emotional difficulties, whereas male students outperformed female students on measures of behaviour and hyperactivity (Wright et al., 2020). Fink et al. (2015) discovered a significant increase in emotional problems among females, which is consistent with this trend. The COVID-19 lockdown had a profound impact on young women’s mental health in the United Kingdom. Many young individuals feel lonely; 11–20% of those aged 12–15 years say they are lonely at least “sometimes” (Qualter et al., 2015). Research conducted during the start of the covid-19 epidemic and lockdown found a link between loneliness and concomitant mental health problems among UK youths (Cooper et al., 2021). This indicates that teenage women in the UK were more likely to feel loneliness during lockdowns, which is a prelude to mental health problems. According to Waite et al. (2009), youth experienced an increase in hyperactivity/inattention and behavioural issues during the lockdown, as well as a minor decrease in emotional symptoms.

Many variables have been suggested as possibly contributing to the rise in mental health problems among teenagers, especially girls (Bell et al., 2015; Bottino et al., 2015; Lessof et al., 2016; National Children’s Bureau and Association of School and College Leaders, 2016; Patton et al., 2016) are just a few of them. Adolescents have identified social media pressure as a possible risk factor for sadness and anxiety. Social media over use predicts low self-esteem and inadequate sleep, all of which are linked to poor mental health (Betton & Woollard, 2019; Scott, Biello & Woods, 2019). Cyberbullying and trolling are two of social media’s most significant negative effects on mental health. Early teenage self-harm and suicidal ideation have been linked to this (O’Reilly, 2020). Female adolescents use social media more than male adolescents, and they are more likely to use it to seek validation and to compare oneself to their peers (Twenge & Martin, 2020; Hanna et al., 2017). Excessive social media use, according to current research, can profoundly alter young girls’ moods, self-esteem, and attitudes toward themselves and others (Burt, 2018). Self-harm, despair, and low self-esteem are all linked to increased social media use among 13–15-year-old females (Barthorpe et al., 2020). Females were shown to have a greater link between social media use and depression. People who use social media more often are more likely to face low self-esteem, online harassment, a bad body image, and sleep deprivation (Kelly et al., 2018). As a result, women are more likely than boys to experience the detrimental mental health effects of social media use (Casares &Binkley, 2021). This finding suggests that gender-specific mental health measures are required.

Mental health issues impact a large number of children and teenagers, with some data indicating a rise in anxiety, depression, and self-injury in this age group (Dray et al., 2017; Hale et al., 2014). Childhood psychological health problems have a negative impact on social mobility. It was found that victims of poor mental health during childhood earned less in adulthood, were not able to work well and are more likely to have poor interpersonal relationships in adulthood leading to poor marriage stability. Therefore, poor mental health has far reached effects in adulthood (Goodman, Joyce & Smith, 2011). As a result, identifying priority intervention areas requires evaluating the determinants impacting the mental health of teens in the UK, particularly females. Most studies of the factors impacting adolescent mental health only look at the epidemic era. However, there is evidence that UK adolescent mental health was deteriorating before to the pandemic, and that children with mental health disorders had worse educational, social, and health outcomes as compared to those with better mental health (Connor et al., 2022; McManus et al., 2019; Pitchforth, Viner & Hargreaves, 2016). Between 2004 and 2017, self-harm, despair, and anxiety rose, particularly amongst adolescent girls (Sadler et al., 2017). Given that self-harm is a significant risk factor for suicide, it is not unexpected that suicide rates among children and young people in the UK have grown (Bould et al., 2019). Between 2014 and 2016, less than 100 people under the age of 18 committed suicide in the United Kingdom, which is low when compared to other age groups (Rodway et al., 2020). Lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK have been connected to a surge in child suicide. Odd et al. (2020) observed a troubling trend: the number of youngsters who committed suicide within the first 56 days of detention may have grown. Restriction of education and other activities, disruptions in care and support services, family troubles, and isolation all play a role.

Limited financial resources are a major contributor to poor mental health in households. In the United Kingdom, financial constraints in families have been related to poor mental health in adolescents. According to Newlove-Delgado et al. (2021), during a pandemic, one in every ten children and young adults report that their families do not have enough food or rely on food banks more than they did before the epidemic. Furthermore, Petri-Romano et al. (2020) discovered that during the pandemic, self-isolation and social distancing increase stress, anxiety, and the likelihood of intimate partner violence in certain families, and many families are apprehensive about the future. These are well-known risk factors for teenage mental health issues. This implies a need for implementation of resilience building programs that will enable young adolescents such as young women survive such challenges.

Numerous aspects of the school experience influence the mental health of early teenage females through various approaches. Some circumstances, such as recurrent bullying in the school environment, can have a direct impact on a student’s mental health, but others, such as the institution’s quality and character, or school climate, might have an indirect impact (Patalay et al., 2020). Furthermore, many possible implications, such as the socioeconomic features of the school catchment area, would be outside the school’s control, yet they may still have a significant influence on students’ mental health (Bonell et al., 2019). According to the findings of a research on the cultural and social aspects of the school conducted by Ford et al. (2021), the majority of pupils (55 percent) are female. These tiny school-level impacts might imply that existing approaches to child mental health in UK schools are staying the same. Early adolescent mental illness is more common in urban schools among students who are mostly White and originate from low-income homes.

Adolescents’ mental health is harmed by social isolation and loneliness. During and after forced confinement, children and teens are more likely to experience considerable levels of depression and, most likely, anxiety. This figure may climb as the enforced seclusion continues (Loades et al., 2020). Isolated adolescents miss out on essential one-of-a-kind experiences (Thompson et al., 2021). The COVID-19 outbreak was predicted to exacerbate the effects of confinement, especially among vulnerable youths already in mental institutions. Attempts at suicide and suicidal thoughts were greater among teens admitted to psychiatric institutions during COVID-19 than the previous year. Stressors such as missing special occasions, financial issues, in-home conflict, and changes in living circumstances were connected to COVID-related suicide ideation in psychiatrically hospitalized youth (Thompson et al., 2021). These variables are likely to impair girls’ mental health, according to Wright et al. (2020), because they are thought to have the most emotional issues as a result of stress.

The emotional health of children is harmed by school closures induced by the outbreak. Emotional, behavioural, and restlessness/inattention concerns all have serious implications. According to Viner et al. (2021), 18-60% of teenagers scored over distress risk levels, especially for anxiety and depressive symptoms. School closures have been linked to diminished social connections, loneliness, physical activity, mental health issues, and an increased risk of abuse, exploitation, and neglect5 (Viner et al., 2021; Interpol, 2020; NHS, 2020). According to 2019 research by the UK, 2.3 million children in the UK live in hazardous homes as a result of domestic violence, drug or alcohol misuse, or major mental health problems in their parents. England’s Children’s Committee (Children Com Committee for England, 2019). Mandatory school closures in the UK, which raise mental health problems among teens, magnify these long-term impacts. Future emergency closures should be accompanied by mental health care programs.

Around 5% of 11–16-year-olds in the United Kingdom have clinically significant behavioural problems (Blakey et al., 2021). According to the 2017 National Survey of Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, around 2% of 11–16-year-old girls in England had diagnosable behaviour disorders (Sadler et al., 2017). In research conducted by Blackey et al. (2021), the majority of the girls aged 11–14 acknowledged changeable socioeconomic characteristics such as affluence and experiences such as racial discrimination as directly predicting behaviour issues in inner-city schools (51 percent). Adolescents from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have more behavioural problems than those from better socioeconomic backgrounds. According to Piotrowska et al. (2022), income is related to changes in behavioural disorders. Furthermore, the study implies that concerns with child behaviour may operate as a mediator between social gaps and family psychological functioning.

Recent research found that 10% of children aged 11 to 16 in the United Kingdom had a mental health condition. Early adolescent mental health is impacted by socioeconomic partners and parenting. Jobanputra and Singh (2020) explored General Practitioners’ attitudes toward the management of mentally ill adolescents. Because of its significant impact on presentation and management, the study’s findings suggest that financial stress is a risk factor for poor mental health. Some practitioners, however, are concerned that this concentration may detract from help for middle-class children. Parents were also shown to have a significant impact on their children’s mental health. These findings highlight the critical need for adequate teen support in the United Kingdom.

Stress has a substantial influence on the mental health of young teens. According to self-reported research on school-aged youth in Greater London done by Al-Zawaadi, Hesso, and Kayyali (2021), relationship problems were the major challenge for the young population, followed by hectic schedules. There was also talk of sudden change, discrimination, and financial difficulties. Stressors such as isolation and significant barriers were also cited. Gender discrimination, age, health comorbidities, social behaviours including drinking and smoking bullying, and an inactive lifestyle have all been recognised as risk factors for bad mental health symptoms. Discrimination was shown to be the strongest predictor of poor symptomatology among these categories (Al-Zawaadi, Hesso & Kayyali, 2021). Understanding how gender-based discrimination affects ethnic minority girls is critical in the development of mental health care programs that will address specific needs of the minorities.

Overall, the majority of the main factors impacting the psychological well-being of young women in the UK are not gendered specific and they have been seen to affect both boys and girls, albeit at different levels. Young women, on the other hand, are more sensitive to emotional problems and the detrimental effects of social media usage, such as cyberbullying. Loneliness and isolation, as well as home-based issues such as domestic abuse and financial restraints, have all been mentioned. The COVID-19 epidemic has had a significant impact in exacerbating the variables that contribute to poor mental health among young women. To not only ameliorate the negative effects of the pandemic on young women’s menta health, but also to bring levels below pre-pandemic levels, strategies to meet the special needs of young women must be implemented.


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