A quarter of girls and one in 10 boys are depressed at the age of 14, a study in the UK has found. Researchers from the University of Liverpool and University College London in the UK analysed information on more than 10,000 children born in 2000-01.
At ages three, five, seven, 11 and 14, parents reported on their children's mental health. When they reached 14, the children were themselves asked questions about their depressive symptoms.
Based on the 14-year-olds reporting of their emotional problems, 24 per cent of girls and nine per cent of boys were found to suffer from depression.
"We have highlighted the increasing mental health difficulties faced by girls today compared to previous generations and this study further highlights the worryingly high rates of depression," said Praveetha Patalay from the University of Liverpool, who led the study.
The research also investigated links between depressive symptoms and family income. Generally, 14-year-olds from better-off families were less likely to have high levels of depressive symptoms compared to their peers from poorer homes, researchers said.
Parents' reports of emotional problems were roughly the same for boys and girls throughout childhood, increasing from seven per cent of children at age seven to 12 per cent at age 11. However, by the time they reached early adolescence at age 14, emotional problems became more prevalent in girls, with 18 per cent having symptoms of depression and anxiety, compared to 12 per cent of boys.
Behaviour problems, such as acting out, fighting and being rebellious decreased from infancy to age five, but then increased to age 14, the study found. Boys were more likely than girls to have behaviour problems throughout childhood and early adolescence.