‘There appears to be increasing school distress amongst girls as they negotiate their way through the last parts of their school careers,’ Dr Bor said.
‘They face difficult choices and pressures and the modern education system appears to be more problematic for girls – so the issue there is the stress of making future decisions and how they cope with them.’
Older adolescent girls across the world are increasingly experiencing severe anxiety and depression, a new Australian study has found.
The review, which has been published in the in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, looked at 19 extensive studies conducted across 12 countries and found that teenage girls in Northern Europe, the UK and China are specifically experiencing an increase in mental health problems.
The studies leader, Dr William Bor from the University of Queensland, told the Daily Mail Australia that a combination of cultural, schooling and economic factors are most likely to be leading to the growing problem.
However culture is also believed to have a significant impact on mental health issues within young women, who are well known to struggle with identity and appearance issues.
‘There’s a lot of speculation about the pressure on girls in terms of early sexualization and concerns they have about body image.
‘However, there is also a third factor around increasing economic inequality, and that may be increasing pressures at school as well.’
Due to the data coming from an array of countries, Dr Bor said the exact reasons for the difference in results across genders was not entirely clear, but are most likely tied in with education and cultural pressures.
‘Boys are also affected but they’re not as affected,’ he said.
‘You can see in the results that the trend in boys and girls is going up, but what is very clear is that girls have almost double the anxiety and worries as boys.
‘We don’t yet know all the answers here – each country has different pressures on their young people – and one of the odd things is that America isn’t showing this increasing trend.
‘We also have to account for why we are seeing a rise in China –so it’s clearly not just a western phenomenon.’
‘The school factor is the common denominator and the most likely factor across the multiple countries.’
Dr Bor recommended that parents, peers and medical professionals receive more education about depression and anxiety, including prevention programs being placed in high schools, to increase the chances of successful prevention and early intervention.
‘One of the greatest issues is that it could lead to higher rates of attempted and successful suicide – that’s the greatest risk with anxiety and depression,’ Dr Bor said.
‘But having severe depression and anxiety in adolescence is also a predictor of having it in future life – about a quarter of kids go on to get the illnesses as adults so it is a risk factor for the future, and it also increases the likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse in adulthood.’
Although the study has no conclusive figures on the number of youth suffering from anxiety and depression in Australia, a population survey will be releases in 2015 with extensive figures.
This article first appeared on ‘Daily Mail’ on 12 July 2014.