Toll of social media on girls' mental health: Sexualized images fuelling rise in anxiety among pupils aged 11 to 13 

  • Sexualized adverts and social media leading to emotional problems in girls
  • Girls aged between 11 and 13 more affected than they were five years ago 
  • Rise may be linked to seeing women portrayed as sex objects, study finds 


Sexualised images of women in advertising and social media are leading to an increase in emotional problems among young girls, new figures suggest.

Girls aged between 11 and 13 are now more likely to worry, lack confidence or feel nervous than they were five years ago because they feel under pressure.

The rise in girls suffering from emotional problems may be linked to stress brought on by seeing images of women portrayed as sex objects on Facebook, Twitter and other websites, researchers from University College London believe.

Their survey of 1,600 pupils in Years 7 and 8 showed that an increase in time spent on social media and the pressure to perform academically could have contributed to the rise.

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, compared the mental health of schoolchildren in 2014 with a sample from 2009.

The girls and boys were asked to identify how often they worry, feel unhappy, get nervous, lose confidence, feel scared or suffer from headaches and sickness.

It found that there are now an average of three girls in every 2014 class feeling sad or nervous, compared to just one or two in a 2009 class. 

The number of schoolgirls likely to suffer emotional problems also rose from 13 per cent in the 2009 study to 20 per cent – one in five – in 2014.

Lead author Dr Elian Fink said: ‘Five years is a relatively short period of time, so we were surprised to see such a sharp spike in emotional problems among girls.’

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