Teenagers are more likely to feel depressed, and less likely to get a full night’s sleep, than 10 years ago, new research suggests.

The study also found smoking, binge-drinking and having sex were not as common among teenagers as they were a decade ago – but that obesity and poor body image rose.

Researchers from University College London, who carried out the study, said the factors behind mental health problems may be changing.

The academics analysed data taken in 2005 from 5,600 14-year-olds in Bristol, born in 1991-92.

They compared it to data in 2015 from 11,000 young people of the same age, born across the UK in 2000-01.

The level of depression in this age group rose from 9% to 15% in the 10 years, based on the results of a questionnaire looking at mood and feelings.

Teens who hurt themselves on purpose rose from 12% to 14%.

The 14 -year-olds from 2015 were also less likely to get the recommended eight hours of sleep.

 

The factors behind mental health problems may be changing, said researchers.

“Life has really changed for young people in the past decade – and there are some worrying trends here which echo a lot of what counsellors are seeing young people struggle with,” said Jo Holmes, our children, young people and families lead.

“There’s also the continuous flow of information our children and young people are processing that has the power to make them feel less good about themselves. The dependence on technology can be non-stop if not regulated in a healthy way.

“We know evidence suggests that regular exercise is linked with positive mental health and can help with depression. Exercise alone isn’t the answer but less pressure on exam results and learning to pass tests while at school and more fun, physical activities, accessible to all, is perhaps one way of trying to change this trend and tiring our children to help them sleep better. It might even help with their mental health too.

“We also have to ensure that young people have access to the help and support they need, when they need it, including through talking therapies from professional, qualified counsellors. Young people should be moving into adulthood happy, confident and with the emotional tools to cope with what life throws at them.”

To find a counsellor who works with children or young people visit our therapists' directory.