The Mental Health Risks for Female Teens



Teens in general can be vulnerable to mental illness. However, the risks for mental illness vary between male and female teens, and according to research there are greater risks for female adolescents versus males. This article will explore some of those risks and how parents and caregivers can minimize them.


Studies have shown that female teens are more prone to eating disorders, body image disturbances, depression, and other mood disorders. For this reason, female teens may need mental health support that varies from male teens. The following provides a summary of research related to the mental health and well being of female adolescents:


Substance Use

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. This study was done in 2010 and found that teen females are more likely to associate self-medicating benefits with drinking and drug use.


Emotional Distress

According to a California survey, females (37.5%) were more likely to report their emotional symptoms and were more likely to be 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. Other research indicates that mental illness, particularly depression and self-harming behavior are major concerns for female teens these days. The United Kingdom study found that 75% of teens surveyed about their mental health reported that self-harm was a serious issue for those in their age group. This is up from 62% in 2010. At the same time, 72% said smoking was a big concern for them. However, this percentage went down from 82% five years ago.



A recent national 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.


Mood Disorders

Female teens are twice as likely to exhibit signs and symptoms of mood disorders. One reason for this is that females tend to respond to emotional stimuli in a more sensitive way. Females tend to mature faster than males regarding their ability to regulate their emotions. They also tend to have a heightened sensitivity towards emotions, which might be a trigger for anxiety and depression. It is during adolescence that certain social and psychological concerns peak. At the same time, these same concerns may start in adolescence and become lifelong problems. These include suicide, homicide, pregnancies, substance abuse, and homelessness.


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 the life of a female teen and you see signs of mental illness, call a mental health professional today.