Girls mental health deteriorated significantly in past years: study
Dutch girls have experienced an “unprecedented decline in mental health” in recent years. Researchers wrote this in the Health and Behavior in School-aged Children (HBSC) report, which will be presented to Queen Maxima on Wednesday. The percentage of girls in secondary education who experience emotional problems increased from 28 percent to 43 percent between 2017 and 2021. Among girls in group 8, it increased from 14 to 33 percent.
A “probably significant part” of the decline can be linked to the coronavirus crisis. Mental health also deteriorated among boys, but according to the researchers, this was not in proportion to the developments among girls. Boys, like girls, score their lives a 7.1 on average. While that is still a more than passing grade, it was a 7.5 in 2017 and even an 8 in 2001.
Girls reported not only more emotional problems in 2021 but also more behavioral problems, hyperactivity, and problems concentrating.
Just like between 2013 and 2017, the previous period studied, the percentage of school pupils who experience pressure due to schoolwork also grew considerably in the period 2017-2021. “In the past 20 years, this percentage has even tripled,” the researchers said. In 2001, 16 percent of secondary education pupils reported experiencing (quite) a lot of pressure due to schoolwork. In 2021, this increased to 45 percent. Here, too, we see a more unfavorable development for girls than boys.
The likely link between the coronavirus pandemic and mental health problems does not mean that those problems will automatically diminish because the coronavirus is putting less pressure on society, the researchers said. And a decrease in the percentage of pupils burdened by school work is “not necessarily” to be expected. “The educational disadvantages caused by the coronavirus crisis may have been a catalyst for an already existing social development: the increased importance that young people, their parents, and society in general attach to performing at school.”
Furthermore, smoking and drinking have not decreased in recent years, after a long period in which a decrease was clearly visible among young people.
The HBSC survey has been conducted every four years since 2001 by researchers from Utrecht University, the Trimbos Institute, and the Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP).
Reporting by ANP