Researchers from University College London and the Anna Freud Centre found that schoolgirls aged 11-13 in England are increasingly at risk from emotional problems. The study compared questionnaires filled in by 1,600 schoolgirls in 2009 with similar surveys conducted in 2014.
As part of the assessment, the girls were asked to explain how far they agreed with certain statements, along the lines of 'I am often unhappy, downhearted or tearful' to allow the study authors to determine if they were at risk of developing emotional problems or behaving in an extreme manner.
Over the five-year period, the number of girls at risk from emotional problems rose from 13% to 20%. The study found that a mixed classroom of 30 children is likely to contain three girls with emotional difficulties compared with one or two in a similar class in 2009.
Dr Elian Fink, Lead author, said, "Whatever is causing the rise of emotional problems, it is clear that we need more effective interventions. These might include encouraging teachers to look out for emotional problems in young girls and increasing provision of youth mental health services."
The classes sampled were not nationally representative as 38% of the children were from ethnic minority backgrounds, compared with a national average of 20-25%.
"However, our data did not show significant differences in emotional problems between children from different ethnic backgrounds. As a result, I think we can be confident that the increase that we saw would apply across the board despite the unrepresentative sample," said, Dr Helen Sharpe, co-author.
The rising prevalence of celebrity culture and young girls comparing themselves to their peers on social media platforms, which make them feel insecure, may be some of the potential reasons.