A Snapshot of Girls’ and Young Women’s Lives

Amanda from the #YSHealth Panel tells us about the Girls’ Attitudes Survey carried out by Girlguiding. This survey asks girls and young women how they feel about their everyday lives. 

Photo of Amanda for Girl Guiding and the #YSHealth Panel

I’m Amanda, and as well as being a #YSHealth panel member, I am a Girlguiding Advocate. Powered by over 80,000 volunteers, Girlguiding is the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK, with nearly a third of a million members. We’re active in every part of the UK with more than 25,000 groups meeting weekly. Advocates are Girlguiding’s spokespeople: we speak out on issues that matter to us and girls and young women across the UK.

Girl Guiding Girls' attitude survey 2021

Since 2009, Girlguiding has given girls and young women a platform to speak out on the issues that matter to them through the Girls’ Attitudes Survey which asks girls and young women how they feel about their everyday lives. This survey, now in its 13th year, asked over 2,000 girls and young women aged 7 to 21, both inside and outside of guiding, how they feel about the specific and emerging pressures facing them today, and what these mean for their happiness, wellbeing and opportunities in life.

Girl guiding stats

Girls’ and young women’s happiness has been in decline over the past decade, but in the last three years it has dropped drastically. In 2009, 88% of girls and young women aged 7 to 21 said they were happy most of the time. This decreased in 2018 to 81%. This year, only 63% say they’re happy most of the time.

The decline is even steeper in the number of girls and young women, particularly those aged between 7 and 10, who say they’re very happy most of the time: 40% aged 7 to 21 said this in 2009, compared to only 14% this year. Furthermore, 53% of girls aged 7 to 10 say they’ve felt more sad, anxious, or worried than they did before the pandemic. This increases to 70% for 11 to 16-year-olds and 78% for 17 to 21s. Sadly I don’t find the results of the research surprising. We’re exposed to more and more pressures, both online – from harassment to images portraying unrealistic ideals of ‘perfection’ – and as a result of the pandemic and the disruption it’s brought to everyday life.

Girlguiding stats

Girls and young women are also worried about the pandemic’s effect on the future. The most common worry amongst girls and young women aged 11 to 21 is struggling with their mental health and wellbeing as a consequence of the pandemic, with 58% saying it’s a concern. Additionally, many girls and young women aged 11 to 21 are worried about job prospects worsening, not having secure income or ability to afford a home, and having poorer health. Pressures like these are directly impacting the confidence and happiness of girls and young women in the UK. Urgent action is needed to revert the trend in declining happiness amongst girls through better support for their wellbeing, education, and financial stability as we recover from Covid-19.

Girl Guiding stars on girls experiencing harm

Despite these worries, girls and young women are still hopeful for the post-pandemic future. For girls aged 7 to 10, they’re most hopeful that everything will ‘get back to normal’, including seeing their friends, taking part in activities and having adventures. 56% aged 11 to 21 are hopeful that the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine will stop the virus from disrupting everyday life, and 55% hope more people will appreciate the simpler things in life. Many now have a greater appreciation for being at school, spending time with family and friends, technology, and nature – more than ever, I, and I’m sure many others, definitely don’t take any of these things for granted now!

Girl Guiding

At the time of writing, all of Scotland is beyond level 0, meaning that almost all restrictions have been lifted and we are closer to ‘normality’. Nevertheless, the past 18 months have been extremely difficult. So, here are some of my tips for supporting your wellbeing and making your mental health a priority:

  • Limiting use of social media: Whilst it is important to stay informed on what’s going on, sometimes all the negativity in the news and on social media can make me feel really overwhelmed. I find that limiting my social media use has really helped me relax, recharge, and re-centre my thoughts.
  • Mindfulness activities: Mindfulness is a great way to reduce stress and improve your ability to regulate your emotions, in turn helping you make better decisions and be more fully engaged in life. Visit Young Scot’s YouTube channel to access a range of mindfulness activities, including yoga sessions, breathing exercises, and face massage.
  • Getting involved with youth groups: For me, remaining involved with my Girlguiding and #YSHealth activities was a lifeline for me during lockdown. And group activities and youth clubs, including Girlguiding units, have been so invaluable in helping girls and young women cope throughout the pandemic. Now that many groups are starting to return to in-person activities, see what’s available near you and get involved! The opportunities you’ll get, the friends you’ll make, and, above all, the sense of community you’ll feel from joining groups will undoubtedly improve your mental wellbeing.

Visit the AyeFeel Blogs page to check out more blogs.

Take a look at our Mindfulness Monday videos if you're looking for some mindfulness activities.

If you're interested in volunteering, visit the #YSHive page to see what volunteer opportunities are available with Young Scot.

For more information about supporting your mental health and emotional wellbeing visit our AyeFeel page.

Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.