Over a quarter of a million girls in Britain are unhappy, with huge numbers struggling with the way they look, according to a children’s charity.
A state-of-the-nation review of young people’s well-being, carried out by The Children’s Society, found one in seven of all girls aged 10-15 - 283,000 girls in total - say they are not happy with their lives.
This figure has increased by 21% between 2009/10 and 2013/14, the charity says.
The report also revealed around 700,000 10-15 year-old girls - more than a third of the total - say they do not feel happy with their looks. This up 8% between 2009/10 and 2013/14.
The proportion of boys aged 10-15 who are unhappy with their lives has remained stable at one in nine, while the proportion of boys who say they are unhappy with their appearance continues to hover around 20%.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: 'It is desperately worrying that so many of our young people are suffering rather than thriving. Girls are having a particularly tough time and it’s clear that concerted action is needed to tackle this problem.’
The report - entitled The Good Childhood Report 2016 - suggests the gender gap may be explained by the fact girls are more likely to experience emotional bullying than boys.
It also notes research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which shows girls are much more likely to spend extended periods on social media, which has been linked to a higher risk of mental ill-health.
The charity’s research also reveals children’s perceptions and experiences of their local area are linked to how happy they feel. The two local problems with the strongest links to well-being are ‘noisy neighbours’ and ‘people drinking or taking drugs’.
The Children’s Society is calling on local authorities to listen more to children’s views about what matters to them and making sure they are directly involved in decision making about their local areas.
Responding to the report, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the Local Government Association’s (LGA) portfolio holder for community wellbeing, said: ‘To ensure children suffering with mental health are fully supported, we need a joint approach that includes every organisation involved in a young person's life, such as schools, carers, the health service, councils and specialist providers.
‘The Government's Future in Mind programme emphasises the importance of joint working and we support its aspiration to improve our children and young people's mental health and wellbeing.’
Cllr Seccombe emphasised the importance of ‘proper funding’ for this programme and pointed out it is currently just 6% of the NHS mental health budget and 0.7% of its overall budget.
‘Not only is more investment needed if we are to deliver the mental health support our children and young people need and deserve, but we need to be sure that money is making its way to the services most needed in each individual community,’ she said.
‘The vast majority of councils have processes in place already to consult with children, in addition to engaging with parents and families, and we would be keen to see that replicated across other services, including the NHS.’