Teen girls experiencing uptick in thoughts of suicide, sexual violence: report

"Our teenage girls are suffering through an overwhelming wave of violence and trauma, and it’s affecting their mental health," she added.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

New findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have revealed that teen girls across the United States are experiencing concerning increases in feelings of depression or suicide and experiencing rape and sexual violence.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released on Monday, revealed that over 50 percent of high school females, 57 percent, experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2021, the year the survey was conducted. They survey is based on self-reported results on surveys distributed across schools in the US.

This is up from 36 percent in 2011, the beginning of the time frame looked at by the survey, and a sharper increase seen than fellow male students, who saw an increase from 21 percent in 2011 to 29 percent in 2021.

The report also revealed that nearly one in every three teen girls, 30 percent, said that they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. 

This is up from 19 percent in 2011, and is a shocking increase compared to that seen in teen males, rising from 13 percent in 2011 to 14 percent in 2021.

24 percent of teen girls made a suicide plan in the past year, with 13 percent attempting suicide, up from 10 percent in 2011.

Speaking with the Washington Post, Richard Weissbourd, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, said that “girls are more likely to respond to pain in the world by internalizing conflict and stress and fear, and boys are more likely to translate those feelings into anger and aggression."

Boys are more likely to "mask depression," he said, while girls may be more vulnerable to social media and "a culture obsessed with attractiveness and body image."

Additionally, the report found that 14 percent of teen girls reported being forced to have sex, up from 12 percent in 2011, and 18 percent reported in 2021 experiencing sexual violence, up from 15 percent in 2011. It is unclear if these incidents were reported to law enforcement. 

For comparison, just 4 percent of teen boys reported that they had been forced to have sex, while 5 percent said that they had experienced sexual violence.

20 percent of teen girls said that they had been electronically bullied in the last year, compared to 11 percent of teen boys.

Teen girls were also more likely than teen boys to drink alcohol, 27 percent compared to 19 percent, use marijuana, 18 percent compared to 14 percent, use vaping products, 21 percent compared to 15 percent, use illicit drugs, 15 percent compared to 12 percent, and misuse prescription opioids, 15 percent compared to 10 percent. Most of these numbers though were unchanged or less than those seen in 2011.


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