In 2009, 41% of girls aged 7-21 described themselves as very happy, whereas by 2018 that figure had fallen to just 25%. Perhaps I should explain where these figures come from. Every year, Girlguiding commissions a survey of almost 2,000 girls aged 7-21, from inside and outside Girlguiding and from around the UK. This survey, the Girls' Attitudes Survey, gives a unique insight into what girls around the country are experiencing, thinking and feeling. And this year, because the Girls' Attitudes Survey is celebrating its 10thanniversary, many of the questions from the very first survey were repeated, allowing us to see how girls’ lives have changed over the last decade.
The fall in the proportion of girls who describe themselves as very happy might make us fear that the change has been only for the worse. Sadly, that is reinforced by the fact that the proportion of girls who say they’re unhappy with how they look has increased from 30% in 2009 to 41% in 2018. This means that more girls are now going about their lives feeling constrained and limited by their own bodies.
Thankfully, however, the Girls' Attitudes Survey brought us some hope alongside these shocking statistics. Since 2015, the proportion of girls who feel awkward talking about mental health issues has fallen from 57% to 46%. You may well have heard of campaigns such as Time to Talk and World Mental Health Day, which have long tried to reduce the stigma around mental health issues. These statistics from Girlguiding reveal that they’re finally having some success. With fewer girls describing themselves as very happy, more discussion of wellbeing and mental health is clearly sorely needed.
However, more still needs to be done. 81% of girls asked in the Girls' Attitudes Survey said that adults don’t understand the pressures they face, but only 36% said they’ve spoken out. So please, whether you sign a petition, write to your MP, or simply chat to those around you, make this the year that you join the 36% and speak out about the issues you care about.