Research: Teenage Greek girls are facing more mental health challenges than ever before

teenager girls depression depressed mental health

Indicators such as perceived level of (physical) health and life satisfaction have deteriorated in recent years. In contrast, additional indicators such as persistent psychological and physical symptoms have increased over the past ten years.

In all cases, the deterioration of mental health indicators is more pronounced in teenage girls than in boys.

The above results from the transnational research entitled "Health Behavior in School-aged Children (HBSC)" are published today, World Mental Health Day, by the Regional Office of WHO for Europe.

The research brings to light a widespread and worrying trend across Europe and Central Asia: the deterioration of teenagers' mental health, especially girls.

Our country is not an exception to the above trends.

In particular, in 2022 (the year of collection of the most recent data), "excellent" health was reported by only two out of five teenagers (42%) in Greece, with the percentage of this indicator steadily decreasing during the last 15 years - especially in its previous part.

Similarly, just one in 3 teenagers (32%) in our country reported "high" levels of life satisfaction in 2022, with this percentage also steadily declining throughout the past 20 years. Finally, 60% of adolescents reported persistent psychological and physical discomfort in 2022.

Although the trend in this percentage was downward until 2014, in the last ten years, there has been a halt and an increase, which also appears particularly pronounced in recent years.

Concerning the above findings, Anna Kokkevi, Omot. Professor of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine of the EKPA and scientifically responsible for the research in Greece, comments: "These figures are not just numbers."

"They certainly echo changes in the experiences and psyche of teenagers. Still, they also show the crucial role that the family, the school and our society, in general, play in their appearance and prevalence.

"The worsening indicators should motivate us to understand the mental health of adolescents - especially girls - and the factors that influence it, and to act more quickly to support them more effectively."

Higher levels of perceived (physical) health and self-efficacy among adolescents in Greece

The Report of the international HBSC survey for 2021/22 (about 280,000 teenagers aged 11, 13 and 15 from 44 countries, about 6,500 of them in Greece participated in it) also highlights the uniqueness of our country's teenage population compared to other countries.

For example, the perceived level of (physical) health among teenagers - although not at desirable levels - is in our country significantly higher (42%) than the international average (36%).

In Greece, there are also higher percentages of teenagers with self-sufficiency—with fluency, that is, in finding solutions to small or large difficulties they face (69% and 61%, respectively) and in carrying out the work and tasks they have undertaken ( 60% and 57%, respectively).

Higher levels of manifestation of disturbances of a psychological and physical nature

On the other hand, a significantly higher percentage of adolescent boys and girls in Greece (60%, against 44% of the national average) report persistent psychological and physical discomfort. In particular, more than half often feel nervous (53%) and irritable (51%), one in 3 (35%) are often "down" (indicative of sadness) and a roughly similar proportion (30%) ) have difficulty sleeping.

Finally, one in 4 (25%) often have headaches, and the same proportion (24%) has lower back pain (indicative of lack of exercise and inactivity).

Emphasis on promoting health and enhancing life skills in students

Internationally, in Greece as well, mental health and well-being indicators deteriorate with age—that is, the transition from 11 to 13 and then to 15 years.

However, what is peculiar to Greece is that this deterioration seems to be almost everywhere stronger, especially during the transition from elementary school (age 11) to high school (age 13), than during the transition from high school to high school (age 15).

Based on the above, the emphasis in Greece must be placed on interventions to promote psychosocial health, especially in the school context.

Tasos Fotiou, head of the research team of the HBSC research at the Research University Institute of Mental Health, Neurosciences and Precision Medicine "KOSTAS STEPHANIE", which has been implementing the HBSC research in Greece since 1998, points out: "The findings of the research not only allow us to establish the situation in our country and to compare it with that of other countries."

"They also allow us to work with experts in prevention and adolescent health promotion to design school, family and community interventions (digital and non-digital) that are evidenced to reverse the emerging trend of deterioration. And to strengthen the well-being of this - by all accounts - significant population."

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