Changes over Time in Gender Differences in Mental Health and Lifestyles
Against a background of increasing agreement that the mental health of young people has deteriorated within the past few decades, data from the Twenty-07 and 11 to 16/16+ studies was used to compare the psychological wellbeing of 15 year olds in 1987 and 1999. Although there were no significant changes in levels for boys, there were increases in distress for girls from non-manual and skilled manual homes, which could be partly explained by increases in their worries about performance at school and work.
In contrast to this recent change, female concerns have traditionally encompassed appearance, with those writing about youth culture from the 1950s to the 1980s typically describing girls as staying in, preparing themselves for romance and marriage, with boys more likely to be outside the home, participating in sport or hanging around the street. Once again, comparison of 15 year olds in 1987 and 1999 showed changing gender differences: over this period, the gender gap in time spent hanging around the street disappeared. Over the same period, female levels of drinking and experience of illicit drugs reached, and those of smoking overtook their male counterparts. Each of these changes was evidence of the increasing visibility of young women.
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