Depression in Teenage Girls Rising: Study

Ratna Golaknath

A new study, published in the journal, Pediatrics, found that depression among teenage girls in the U.S is rising faster than it is for boys.  The incidence of depressive episodes for girls rose from 13 percent in 2015, to around 17 percent in 2014. In contrast, depressive episodes among boys rose from 4 percent in 2005, to 6 percent in 2014.

Researchers suggested that girls could be more exposed to factors which may trigger expression, such as cyber bullying. As compared with adolescent boys, adolescent girls also now use mobile phones with texting applications more frequently and intensively. Problematic mobile phone use among young people has been linked to depressed mood, argued the report.

According to the report another trigger is the fact that adolescent girls may face more interpersonal stress than boys.

What’s surprising is that despite the increase in depression among adolescents, the number of teenagers who received treatment did not increase significantly.

“Ever-increasing untreated youth depression, concerns all of us at a time when suicide is now the second leading cause of death for adolescents aged 15 to 19 years,” an editorial, which accompanied the report, said.

Psychologist Sonali Gupta tells SheThePeople.TV that teenage girls are more prone to body-image issues which leads to anxiety and depression. And these issues start as early as when girls are 10 or 11 years old. The importance of physical appearances and the concept of looking beautiful emerges during adolescence, she posits.

“Girls are more impacted by social media, Instagram and the like than boys are,” she says. She also says that teenage girls are more likely to engage in self harm and have eating disorders than boys are. “Even bullying in these years focuses on physical appearance.”

A lot of pressure to look beautiful, surprisingly comes from parents, says Gupta. Young parents who are fit, pressure girls to lose ‘early puberty fat.’

“Parents and educators must teach their children that the Internet is not our entire world, but a curated version of reality.” 

Parents must stress that a person is not defined by his or her physical appearance, she says. They must teach them to look at multiple narratives. In addition, they must be watch out for early signs of depression, such as loss of appetite or sleeping too much, and get their child the appropriate help. She says that moods can be managed in therapy if one teaches the child to look at the world through multiple prisms. “Don’t shy away from seeking professional help!” she argues.

As depression loses its stigma in India, and the increasing number of mental health campaigns raise people’s awareness, let’s hope that more parents recognise trigger factors for their children, and provide them with help.

Also Read: How to handle cyber sexism? Stand up to it!