Three take aways from ‘Psychological health in teenage girls’ Chapter 4 of the first ‘State of the Nation’ report

Chapter 4 of the first ‘State of the Nation’ report on wellbeing was a deeper dive into the psychological health in teenage girls.  With my psychology background this interested me and seeing a large data set and an acknowledgement that correlation doesn’t equate to causation always makes me feel excited about reading a report!

Here are three things that stood out for me for schools and further education leaders to consider:

  • ‘A range of factors in combination are likely to be important for teenage girls’ psychological health, rather than one or two factors in isolation’

Ask yourself – do I cover a range of topics that could impact on psychological health in my tutor curriculum/assemblies/PSHRE alternative? When trying to put together a curriculum to promote positive mental health there can be a tendency to focus on social media or the link between food and mood however it was pointed out in the report that many things affect wellbeing as seeing friends, a higher perceived locus of control, physical exercise, positive attitude to school and sleep have positive effects on psychological health.  Your tutor or PHSRE programme needs to cover a wide range of different aspects that can support psychological health.

  • social media use had one of the smallest effects of all the factors we examined: getting enough sleep and seeing friends were about three times larger’.

As we know from our research with LKMco social media can have positive and negative effects however what was key to note here is ‘Being bullied, including online bullying, had an association with psychological health about eight times larger than social media use’ on the young ladies questioned in this data set.  The question for school leaders is how do we tackle bullying that we are not always aware of, doesn’t occur on school grounds yet can come from within our student population?


  • ‘The main activity girls engaged in was also important, where girls who were in paid work or apprenticeships reported better psychological health than those who were at school or college.’

This is a really hard sentence to read as a school leader.  We know that there are a larger group of young people in 6th Form or FE than there are working or in apprenticeships but how can we be reflective to ask ourselves that difficult question – what could we do better?  Is it pressure from inside the school? Are we informing young people about their options?  That it will be okay if they don’t get that grade? When we sit down and discuss targets with a student who is behind, what should we discussing with that young person to help their psychological health than hinder it?

For more insights into this report please see this blog from Dean Johnstone that has 6 questions for schools to consider based on the whole report.

Written by Shelly Masters