Young Women and Non Heterosexual Teenagers' Mental Health Most At Risk According To New Survey

Lucy Donoughue
By Lucy Donoughue,
updated on Nov 23, 2018

Young Women and Non Heterosexual Teenagers' Mental Health Most At Risk According To New Survey

Young Women between ages of 17-19 and non-hetrosexual teenagers at increased risk of experiencing mental disorders

New research published by NHS Digital has shown spike in mental health disorders for young people transitioning into adulthood

The survey, funded by the Department of Health and Social Care and commissioned by NHS Digital was carried out by NatCen Social Research, Office for National Statistics and Youth in Mind. It follows previous explorations of children and young people’s mental health in 1999 and 2004.

This new report, using data collected from 9,117 children between January and October 2017, shows that there has been a slight increase in the prevalence of mental disorders of five to 15 year olds in the past 18 years, rising from 9.7% of respondents in 1999 to 11.2% in 2017.

However, the 2017 survey, for the first time broadens the age grouping to include findings around the prevalence of a mental disorder in toddlers (two to four year olds) and young people transitioning in adulthood (17-19).

In the latter age group, some of the most significant findings include:

  • 16.9% of 17-19 years olds had a mental disorder
  • 6.4% met the criteria for one or more mental disorders when interviewed
  • 13.1% were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder
  • 4.8% were diagnosed with depression
  • Girls aged 17-19 were twice as likely (23.9%) to have a mental health
    disorder (23.9%) than boys (10.3%).

The wide-ranging study suggests that young women have been identified as a high risk groups in relation to mental health in particular, with just under a quarter of those surveyed living with a mental disorder. 52.7% who were identified as living with a mental health disorder reported that they had self-harmed or had attempted suicide.

14-19 year olds who identified as being non-hetrosexual were also identified as being at a higher risk of encountering mental health challenges. 34.9% of young people who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or with another sexual identity had a mental disorder, compared with 13.2% of teenagers in the same age-range identifying as hetrosexual.

In response to the report, Professor Peter Fonagy, Chief Executive of The Anna Freud Centre said:

“There have been repeated calls for more funding for supporting children and young people’s mental health. This is desperately needed. However we also know that purely focusing on funding won’t solve the problem.

“We need to develop a more comprehensive approach to young people’s mental health from the community to the clinic, with schools as a key part of this picture. We need a kinder society that doesn’t impose unrealistic and destructive expectations on young people to live up to an unrealisable goal.

"We need to make it clear that people are valued in themselves, not for their appearance and not judged on their sexuality and have a right to be confident in their identity.

“Beyond this we need new ways of working to encourage professionals to work together. We need to empower young people so that they have greater involvement in the support they receive, and we need to develop public health approaches to mental health, to prevent short term problems becoming overwhelming, life-long and debilitating.”

The survey result spanned a broad range of factors as well as ages (two to 19), including social and family context, ethnic and socioeconomic context, the relationship between mental and physical impairment and percentages of children taking medication for mental disorders.

Read the full Mental Health of Children and Young People 2017 report

Discover more about mental health issues that most commonly affect children and teens, and find counselling support in your area through Counselling Directory.

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