Research digest: Mental health difficulties in early adolescence

Mental health difficulties in early adolescence: A comparison of two cross-sectional studies in England from 2009 to 2014

Fink, E., Patalay, P., Sharpe, H., Holley, S., Deighton, J. & Wolpert, M.
Published in
: Journal of Adolescent Mental Health, 56, 502-507, 2015.

New research from the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) at Anna Freud Centre and UCL has sparked international media attention with its finding that emotional problems in girls in England aged 11-13 increased by 55% between 2009 and 2014.

The authors of this paper worked on questionnaires completed by a large group of young people over three years, which allowed them to unpack the important question of whether body dissatisfaction leads to emotional problems or whether the reverse is true. They found that body dissatisfaction predicted later emotional problems specifically in adolescent girls (but not younger children or adolescent boys).

Dr Helen Sharpe summarised the implications of their research, suggesting that ‘tackling body dissatisfaction in early adolescence may be one way to promote positive mental health and wellbeing in young women as they grow up.’