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Kirsten Dunst Crazy/Beautiful (John Stockwell, 2001)
Kirsten Dunst gets sad in Crazy/Beautifulvia

Why are girls in the UK among the unhappiest in the world?

A new study shows that girls have second lowest satisfaction when it comes to their appearance, bodies and self-confidence when compared with other countries.

The burden of being a girl is real. It’d be easy to assume growing up female is getting easier when you’ve got Rookie as your bible, Diary of a Teenage Girl in the cinema and role models like Tavi Gevinson, Amandla Stenberg and Chloë Grace Moretz. But apparently it’s going from bad to worse for UK girls, who according to research, are seriously miserable.

A new study done by the Children’s Society revealed that English children are among the most unhappy in the world. Findings revealed an estimated half a million 10 and 12-year-old children are physically bullied at school. While far more boys were more likely to be involved in physical violence, girls were 40 per cent more likely to have felt left out.

While neither gender were exactly happy, girls were shown to have significantly poorer general wellbeing than boys. This was concluded from the low scores in categories for time use, friends and health. But the most disheartening bit of research – and the biggest difference between genders – was when it came to the child’s sense of self.

Almost twice as many females than males were unhappy with their bodies (18 per cent compared with 8 per cent). English girls came second to bottom in terms of satisfaction with their appearance and self-confidence compared with girls in 15 other countries around the world. South Koreans came last.

The study concludes: “One of the consistent findings from our research programme has been the substantial gender gap in satisfaction with self.” Apparently, when the team presented those findings, naysayers argued that this was an inevitable feature of adolescence. “However the international findings now show that this argument is incorrect,” it continues. “In a range of other countries there is no gender difference in children’s feelings about their appearance, their body or their self-confidence.”

What we need to do is find out why girls in the UK are so unhappy with these aspects of themselves. If girls in other countries are no less satisfied than boys, then it’s something specific to our society that’s intrinsically linked to self-esteem issues in young people. Higher saturation of body-negative media images, patriarchal infastructures, highly competitive friendship groups: it’s anyone’s guess.