Young women are most likely to suffer from mental health problems, says new study

I am one of the 26 per cent of 16-24 year old girls who have struggled with depression

According to new data from the NHS, women aged 16-24 are at the highest risk for mental health problems. The National Study of Health and Wellbeing has found that more than a quarter of young women have a diagnosable mental health condition. It also noted that similar number of women have reported self harming, an issue that has a disproportionately large impact on young women, as well as higher instances of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder.

It continued to say that one in five young women experience anxiety or depression, compared to one in eight men of the same demographic of 16-24. Compared to one in six members of the adult population generally, this damning evidence indicates that in the words of one mental health charity “nothing has changed” and that mental health is as big an issue as ever for young women.

The study also stipulated that women aged 16-24 were three times as likely to seek help in regards to anxiety and depression. What this reveals about mental health in the male portion of the 16-24 demographic emphasises that men feel less able to seek help in regards to these mental illnesses, but does not make clear whether the amount of men experiencing mental health problems is actually lower or if they simply do not come forward.

The study also found that 19.7 per cent of women of our age have self harmed at least once in their lives, while one in eight showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The researchers pointed to social media pressure contributing to the decline in young women’s mental health, with many feeling like they needed to photoshop their pictures to look thinner.

From my own personal experience I can unequivocally say that mental health is a huge issue, particularly in universities. I am one of the 26 per cent of 16-24 women who has had to deal with depression and it is an extremely isolating and debilitating condition to contend with. Many of us have similar experiences at uni, but it does come with the caveat that despite the fact that women experience these issues in larger numbers that the culture surrounding discussion of these issues make it easier for women to admit to struggling.

One in five female students are raped at university, and it must be pointed out that survivors of sexual violence and indeed other forms of gender based violence are more vulnerable to further mental trauma in the form of post traumatic stress, self harm and other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. I know that growing up in a abusive environment massively contributed towards me the damaging behaviours and mental health issues that I developed in my later teens and early adult life.

The big picture is much more complex and multifaceted than that – isolation, stress and the pressure to succeed are all parts of it.

Whatever the inherent cause of the mental health crisis at our universities – and there are many – it cannot be ignored and allowed to fester while more and more students suffer. In light of this evidence it’s clear that a whole new approach needs to be taken in terms of the care given to female students who are experiencing mental health problems and the effort needs to be made to understand why so many more women aged 16-24 are reported to have clinical mental health issues than men.