The self-esteem of teenage girls in the UK has fallen dramatically since 2007 – during the same time, use of social media sites have risen by enormous numbers.
A new nationwide survey of 58,000 school students has revealed that only one in three 15-year-old girls have high self-esteem.
The main reason given for this lack of confidence was the way the girl looked – that complaint far outnumbered any issues with schoolwork or home life.
The figures, which come from research by the Schools Health Education Unit, have seen a huge drop since 2007 – which is also the year the economic downturn started.
While only 33 per cent of 14-15 year old girls feel good about themselves now, in 2007, 41 per cent of that age bracket reported high levels of self-worth.
Boys of the same age are considerably more confident, with 50 per cent of those questioned this year revealing that they had high levels of self-esteem.
But boys also been hit with a crisis of confidence since 2007, in that year 55 per cent of 14-15 year old boys reported high levels of self-belief.
While social media was a key factor, the economic downturn was also recognised as a contributing issue.
Author of the report Angela Balding said:
‘The rising trend of self-esteem from 1997-2007 stopped in 2008, and the figures we are seeing for high self-esteem in 2013 are generally lower now.’
She continued: ‘The 2008 date coincides with the economic recession, so that’s a plausible explanation of what we see – but we are also aware of new pressures about being online and of online bullying.’
Since 2007, there has been a huge increase in young people using the internet for both information and socialising. A third of both boys and girls of this age revealed they had used the web to look at porn or violence and three quarters of 15-year-old girls admitted they now use the internet to communicate with others.
During conversations over the internet, 14 per cent of girls in Year 8 and 13 per cent of girls in Year 10 had received a message or picture that had scared them.
Bullying at school is still the most prevalent form of peer abuse though, with 31 per cent of 10-11 year old girls and 30 per cent of 12-13 year old girls fearing bullying at least sometimes.
The fears were justified – in the survey 33 per cent of all the male and female 10-15 year olds admitted that they had been bullied at school in the last 12 months.
As well as bullying, body image figured highly among young women’s top gripes. 62 per cent of 14-15 year old girls and 53 per cent of 12-13 year old girls admitted to researchers that they wanted to lose weight.
Even children aged 10-11 had become increasingly aware of their figures, with 33 per cent of that age group revealing that they were keen to shift a few pounds.