A recent study explored the rates of depression among adolescents in California. Using data from the 2003 California Health Interview Survey, the study found that under 1/3 of California teens ages 12 to 17 reported talking to their medical providers about their emotions or mood. Females (37.5%) were more likely to report their emotional symptoms and were more likely screened for emotional distress than male teens (25.1%). Furthermore, only 34% of teens reported that their doctors discussed their emotions with them of which 36.4% were females and 30.4% were male.
On a national level, a recent study found that female teens tend to have more relationship-related stress than boys, which puts them at greater risk for depression. The study monitored the mental health of nearly 400 white and black American teens by having them assessed for depression along with three follow-up assessments at seven-month intervals. The study found that female teens tended to have more depressive symptoms during the follow-up than boys. Boys’ depressive symptoms seemed to decrease during follow-up, while girls’ depressive symptoms did not.
Globally, five percent of the population across the planet suffers from depression. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability among teens and adults ages 15-44. However, it should be noted that prior to adolescence neither gender experiences depression more so than the other. Yet, this changes after about the age of 13, when girls are two to three times more likely to experience depression. This is such a significant difference that clinicians are exploring causes that might exist in the media and Western society.
Furthermore, there may be a relationship between those female teens who are prone to depression, and mental illness in general, with pregnancy. In May of 2014, a new study examined the fertility rates of adolescents between the ages of 15-19 and its relationship with mental illness. The research revealed that those females with teen depression, bipolar disorder, and other psychotic disorders are three times as likely to become pregnant versus those girls without a mental illness. The results of the population based study was published in Pediatrics.
To add to this, other research shows that females are the fastest growing segment for substance abuse in the United States. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 57,000 female teens admitted to using drugs and of these adolescents, four percent of them were pregnant. Sadly, it seems that female teens are finding more reasons to use drugs and alcohol – more reasons than male adolescents. In a study done by Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the MetLife Foundation, teenage girls were found to be more likely to see benefits from drug use than boys. For this reason, they may be more at risk for using drugs and alcohol.
The study was done in 2010 and found that teen females are more likely to associate self-medicating benefits with drinking and drug use. Of those surveyed in the study, two thirds agreed that using drugs helps deal with problems at home. One half agreed with the statement that drugs could help teens forget their troubles in general. Furthermore, the study found that stress was a major contributor to substance abuse, including the presence of depression. More than three times as many female teens than boys reported having symptoms of depression.
In the last five years, there is significant research that points to the vulnerability of female teens to depression. And as a result, these teens might be engaging in risky behavior, such as unprotected sex and drug use. Knowing the risk factors for female teens can help parents, teachers, and mental health professionals keep their female adolescents safe and psychologically healthy.
If you’re an adult in a teen’s life and you see signs of depression, call a mental health professional today.