Research & Stats

All About Physical, Emotional, Mental & Social Well-Being for kids.

There’s so much interesting and thought-provoking information out there and we’ve culled it together just for you. Simply click on the areas that interest you – and voila, you’ll be sure to find lots of fascinating stuff.  You are sure to be surprised at some of what you learn about the current research.

Self Esteem & Body Image
Constant reminders of “perfect” women in the media have a direct impact on girls’ body confidence, which is said to peak at age 9.
  • More than half (54%) of 10-17-year-old girls around the world do not have high body esteem.
  • Girls with higher body esteem have higher life satisfaction and confidence, and are therefore putting themselves forward more often for opportunities.

**Ref: Dove Research

  • Looking at magazines for just 60 minutes lowers self-esteem in over 80% of girls.
    • 68% of girls say they wish the media did a better job of portraying women of diverse physical attractiveness, age, ethnicity, shape, and size
    • 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful
    • Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable describing themselves as ‘beautiful’
  • 8 out of 10 girls are so occupied with the way they look that their insecurities prevent them from taking part in physical and educational activities.

**Ref for the above: Dove Self-Esteem Project (click for more facts like these)

Are We Okay With These Facts?
  • 55% of girls globally will not spend time with friends and family, participate in activities outside the house, or try out for a team or club if they aren’t happy with the way they look?
  • This number significantly increases to 80% for girls with low body esteem, but actually drops to 41% for girls with high body esteem. **Ref: Dove Research
  • 98% of girls feel that there is a an immense pressure from external sources to to look a certain way **Ref: National Report on Self Esteem
Social Media Makes Matters Worse…
  • In a recent survey, researchers interviewed more than 1,000 high school girls and found…
    • Conversations about appearance were “intensified” on social media and were more influential because they involved peers.
    • While 80% of the girls surveyed were classified as normal weight, 46% said they were dissatisfied with how much they weighed.

**Ref: Flinders University

  • Girls may be more likely to make comparisons between themselves and others.
    • Earlier research has shown that it’s the comparison-making, in either direction, that seems to be a root cause of social media’s negative effects.

**Ref: Office of National Statistics (UK) and Ruling Our eXperiences

What Happens Now That Girls Are Growing Up with Social Media?

Research shows us that beauty-related pressures increase for girls as they grow older and body confidence decreases – stopping young girls from seeing their real beauty.

  • Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful (up from 2% in 2004)
  • 80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful, but do not see their own beauty.
  • More than half of women globally (54%) agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic.

**Ref: Dove Research: The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited

How Can We Help?
  • Giving girls even just one hour to talk about their beauty and self-confidence can help raise their opinions of themselves by a mile.
  • Nearly all girls feel more confident after taking time to do things that make them feel happy/good about themselves, their bodies, and their health, such as reading or exercising.

**Ref for the above: Dove Self-Esteem Project (click for more facts like these) & Body Image

It Just Doesn’t Add Up!

Over the years, American woman have gotten bigger while female models have gotten smaller. The average American woman is 5’4” and 168.5 lbs. And the average weight for female models is 114 lbs. In 1996, a similar study showed the average American woman weighed 140 lbs and model weighed 117 lbs. **Ref: TSM Agency and Smolak, 1996

Social Media & Cyber Bullying
Social Media Has More of a Negative Impact on Girls Than Boys
  • Girls use social media more than boys
    • At age 10, 10% of girls are on social media for an hour a day, but only 7% of boys are.
    • But at age 15, the disparity grew: 43% of girls are using it at least an hour per day vs. 31% of boys.
    • In those five years, the amount of young girls spending more than three hours a day on social media increased from 8.7% to 17.4%.

**Ref: Office of National Statistics (UK) and Ruling Our eXperiences

  • Nonprofit organization Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX) recently conducted the first-ever, large-scale national survey with over 10,000 girls in grades 5-12.
    • 60% of girls have received friend requests from strangers. 44% accept those requests
    • 31% of the girls surveyed admitted they have been bullied or made fun of on social media.
    • By the time they reach 12th grade, 75% of them reported sending sexually explicit photos.
    • 61% of girls say their parents never monitor their use of social media.
  • Teens who spend more than a few hours a day on smartphones and social media face an increased risk for mental health issues.
    • Depression and suicide risk factors in girls increased by 50% from 2012 to 2015, more than twice as much as boys. This sudden increase is around the time when smartphones became popular. (Smartphone ownership crossed the 50 percent threshold in late 2012 — right when teen depression and suicide began to increase. By 2015, 73 percent of teens had access to a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center)
    • Teens who spend five or more hours per day on their devices are 71% more likely to have one risk factor for suicide. And that’s regardless of the content consumed.

**Ref: Monitoring The Future

Sexting is More Common Than You Think
  • One in seven teens report that they are sending sexts, and one in four are receiving sexts.

**Ref: JAMA Pediatrics

  • Although girls and boys sext a similar amount, there are important differences in the perception of this behaviour among youth.
    • Compared to boys, girls report feeling more pressure to sext, and also worry they will be judged harshly for sexting (e.g., slut shaming) or for not sexting (e.g., being called a “prude”).

**Ref: The Conversation

Priorities Are In Order For Some
  • Hispanic teens were more likely to think sexting would hurt relationships with family, and black respondents were more likely to think they could get in trouble with police through sexting.

**Ref: Journalists Resource

Bullying Has Become Virtual Too
  • Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying.
  • More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyberthreats online.
  • Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
  • Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.

**Ref: i-SAFE foundation

  • Cyber bullying victims are more likely to have low self esteem and to consider suicide.

**Ref: Cyberbullying Research Center

  • 1 in 10 adolescents or teens have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken of themselves without their permission, often using cell phone cameras
  • Girls are more likely than boys to be involved in cyberbullying

**Ref: Harford County Examiner

  • Adolescents who spent more time on non-screen activities (in-person social interaction, sports/exercise, homework, print media, and attending religious services) were less likely to report such issues.

**Ref: Jean Twenge Study (2017)

Does Spending Time in These Virtual Spaces Make Teens Happy?
  • Every year since 1975, 12th-graders are asked more than 1,000 questions about how happy they are and also how much of their leisure time they spend on various activities. (8th and 10th graders have been asked since 1991)
    • Including non-screen activities such as in-person social interaction and exercise.
    • in recent years, screen activities include using social media, texting, and browsing the web.
The Results?
  • Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy.

**Ref: Monitoring the Future Survey,

  • Glaringly, the average teen spends a whopping NINE hours a day on screen activities/entertainment media.

**Ref: Common Sense Media Census

Stress, Anxiety & Depression
  • A national survey of over 10,000 adolescents showed that almost 1 in 3 teens met criteria for an anxiety disorder.
    • Severe anxiety, including panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias, afflicts 8.3% of all the teens.
  • By adolescence girls are about twice as likely as their male counterparts to exhibit signs of mood disorders.
  • More adolescent girls than boys experience suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide.
    • 9% of boys and 15% of girls between the ages of 13 and 18 experienced a period of persistent suicidal thoughts.
    • 6% of teenage girls made at least one attempt (which may have been planned or unplanned) , while 2% of boys made attempts.
    • 5% of teenage girls planned a suicide attempt, yet 3% of boys made plans to commit suicide.

**Ref:JAMA Psychiatry and Huffington Post

  • The UCLA Annual Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) freshman survey logged the highest levels of unhappiness ever recorded in female first year college students.
    • This number has increased 25% in the last 15 years.
    • In addition, twice as many girls feel overwhelmed.
Female Friendships
  • Stereotyped to care more about relationships than boys, who tend to be more task-oriented.

**Ref: TEAM Up in conjunction with Women’s Sports Foundation

  • The number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40% from 2000 to 2015.
    • The decline has been especially steep recently. It’s not only a matter of fewer kids partying; fewer kids are spending time simply hanging out. Smartphones?!
    • High school seniors are now going out less often than 8th graders did as recently as six years ago.

**Ref: Jean Twenge Study (2017)


There’s Actually Good News About Sex…

  • The percentage of American teens having sex is lower than in decades past – and more teens who do have sex are now using contraception.
    • The number of sexually active teens has been cut by almost 40% since 1991.
    • In 2015, 30.1 percent of high school students reported being sexually active.
  • Almost 70% of teenage girls and 56% of teenage boys said they were “going steady” with their sexual partners.
  • Today’s teens are less likely to date.
  • Only about 56% of high-school seniors in 2015 went out on dates.
    • Compared to 85% in previous generations.
  • The average teen now has sex for the first time by the spring of 11th grade.
  • The teen birth rate hit an all-time low in 2016 (down 67% since its modern peak in 1991)
  • Girl athletes tend to have a more conscious approach to sexual activities including a delay in first sexual experience and fewer sexual partners.

**Ref: Advocates for Youth & CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics

Girls vs. Boys
  • Girl Scouts Research Institute States
    • Only 21% of all girls believe they have the qualities to be a good leader.
    • 74% of 12-year-olds list “improving the world around me” as one of their favorite activities, but indicate that a lack of confidence holds them back from taking leadership in the areas of change they care most about.
  • Keds Brave Life Project..
    • More boys than girls identified as brave, pointing to a bravery gender gap.
    • Girls reported that it was harder for them to be brave than boys, and that boys got more credit for being brave.
    • 59% of teen girls define bravery as a heroic act in a dangerous situation – while only 18% of teen girls define brave as standing up for their beliefs and being honest about who they are.
    • Contrary to stereotype, teen girls prefer the support of parents, and especially mothers, over their friends.
    • Bravery is driven less by where teens come from – like socioeconomic status, racial background or family structure – but by personality, values and outlook on life.
  • Science Journal reveals that…
  • By the age of 6, girls already do not feel as smart as boys.
    • US-based researchers found that at the age of 5, girls viewed themselves as being just as capable as their male counterparts in terms of brilliance.
    • But by age 6, they were already perceiving their own gender differently.
    • In studies where children listened to a story with a gender-neutral protagonist and then were asked what gender they thought it was, boys and girls choose their own gender at the age of 5, but by 6 girls also assumed the protagonist was a boy.
    • Researchers believe the overall results imply that from a young age, children are already absorbing the stereotypes of their gender, such as what kinds of activities girls and boys “should” be interested in.

**Ref: Science journal 2017 – “Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests”

Women in Business
  • Women earn an average of $0.81 for every dollar earned by men. That’s a 19% gender wage gap. **Ref: Institute for Women’s Policy Research
  • Only 5% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women. **Ref: Harvard Business Review
  • Companies with at least one female senior executive are more likely to succeed than companies that have only men at the top.
    • Venture-based start-ups with five or more women onboard are significantly more successful than those without.

    **Ref: 2012 report by Dow Jones

  • 29% of American firms are owned by women, yet employ only 6% of the country’s workforce and account for barely 4% of business revenues.
    • This is roughly the same share they contributed in 1997.

    **Ref: The Economist / 2013 State of Women Owned Businesses

  • 34 women have ever served as governors compared to 2,319 men **Ref: Center for American Women and Politics
  • 36% of boys preferred male business leaders, only 6% preferred female leaders. **Ref: Harvard
What Can Gender Parity Do?
  • It could add $1.75 trillion to the gross domestic product of the United States, and $2.5 trillion to China’s.
  • In Canada, reducing the gender gap could result in $150 billion more in annual economic output by 2026.

**Ref: McKinsey & Company

Exercise, Physical Fitness, And Sports

  • Physical Health

    Get up, get out, get active; it’s worth it. Physical activity…

    • Boosts your immune system.
    • Reduces the risk of:
      • Obesity
      • Type 2 diabetes
      • High blood pressure
      • Heart disease
      • High cholesterol
      • Stroke, cancer
      • Alzheimers & dementia
      • Osteoperosis

    **Ref: Why Sports Participation for Girls and Women: The Women’s Sports Foundation Position (PDF)(727.57 KB)

    • Helps you get better sleep.
      • Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns.
      • If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.
    • Gives you more energy.
      • Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go.
      • Start off with just a few minutes of exercise a day, and increase your workout as you feel more energized…because you will!

    FUN FACT: As little as four hours of exercise a week may reduce a teenage girl’s risk of breast cancer by up to 60%; a disease that afflicts one out of every eight American women. **Ref: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1994

  • Mental Health

    • Girls and women who play sports have…
      • Higher states of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports.
      • Higher levels of confidence, self-esteem and and pride in their physical and social selves than those who are sedentary (this goes for boys and girls and starts as young as age
      • A more positive body image
      • Increased…
        • Decision making, focus, and problem-solving
        • Persistence and patience
        • Willingness to try new things and set goals
        • Commitment and responsibility

      **Ref: Smoll & Smith, 2002; Weiss, 2011 & Melpomene Institute for Women’s Health Research 1995

    • In fact, middle and high school athletes are…
      • 46% less likely to report being upset
      • 49% less likely to report being sad
      • 37% less likely to report hopelessness
      • 25% less likely to experience depression

      **Ref: National Council of Youth Sports http://www.ncys.org

    How does general physical activity affect mental health?
    • Reduced symptoms of:
      • Anxiety, Stress, Depression
      • Suicide due to the release of mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin
      • Having a physical outlet helps enhance mental well-being
    • Depression
      • Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication—but without the side-effects.
        • In addition, research shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
      • Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain like…
        • neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being
        • releases endorphins (powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good)
        • serves as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression
    • Anxiety
      • Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment.
      • It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins
      • Anything that gets you moving can help, but you’ll get a bigger benefit if you pay attention instead of zoning out.
      • Try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the wind on your skin. By adding this mindfulness element—really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise—you’ll not only improve your physical condition faster, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head.
    • Stress Have you ever noticed how your body feels when you’re under stress?
      • Your muscles may be tense (especially in your face, neck, and shoulders) leaving you with back or neck pain and/or painful headaches.
      • You may feel a tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, or muscle cramps.
      • You may also experience problems such as insomnia, heartburn, stomach ache, diarrhea, or frequent urination.
      • The worry and discomfort of all these physical symptoms can in turn lead to even more stress, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body.

      Fun Fact: Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle. As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so will your mind!

    • ADHD Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
      • It improves concentration, motivation, memory, and mood.
      • Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention.
      • In this way, exercise works in much the same way as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.
    • PTSD/Trauma
      • By really focusing on your body and how it feels during exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck”.
        • This helps you begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma.
        • Instead of thinking about other things, pay close attention to the physical sensations in your joints and muscles as your body moves.
        • Exercises that involve cross movement and that engage both arms and legs—such as walking (especially in sand), running, swimming, weight training, or dancing—are some of your best choices.
      • Outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing (downhill and cross-country) have also been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD.
    • Fun Fact: Reaping the mental health benefits of exercise is easier than you may think.
      • You don’t need to devote hours out of your busy day, train at the gym, sweat buckets, or run mile after monotonous mile.
      • You can reap all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise with 30-minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.
      • Two 15-minute or even three 10-minute exercise sessions can also work just as well.

  • Social Skills

    Participating in sports improves relationships with…

    • Stronger bonds with parents and better communication
    • Stronger peer relationships
      • Girls reasons for participating tend to revolve around the social aspect, affiliation, being on a team and then developing the skills. For boys it’s reversed.
      • Girls are more likely to stay in sports if they are friends with other athletes.

      **Psychology Today, Joan Steidineger

    • Higher levels of social belonging and acceptance
    • Improved social skills such as: teamwork, leadership, communication, competition, respect, compromise
    • Greater involvement in volunteer work
    • Less of a liklihood to smoke or use illicit drugs
      • And more likely to disapprove of others smoking or using drugs
    • Benefits that are even greater for multiple sport athletes vs. single sport.
    • A more mature approach to intimate relationships as a result of increased confidence and comfort with themselves.
    • Girl athletes who tend to have a more conscious approach to sexual activities (in contrast to male athletes).
      • Delay in first sexual experience
      • Fewer sexual partners
      • 80% less likely to become pregnant
      • Less likely to be sexually victimized

    Fun Fact: Findings suggest that sports teams act as support groups where girls can openly discuss boys, health, and sexuality. (WSF)

    • In general, this overall sense of empowerment and self-control often helps teen athletes resist pressure to have sex in exchange for approval or popularity.
    • Male athletes on the other hand, actually have sexual intercourse earlier than non-athletes.

  • Academics

    Students who are active in sports are:
    • Behaving better in the classroom
    • More likely to graduate than those who do not play sports
    • More likely to get better grades in school
    • Perform 10% better in core subjects like math, science, social studies and language arts
    • Likely to have a higher GPA
      • mean GPA for athletes was 2.98. For non-athletes was 2.17.
    • More connected with school
      • School sports teams
      • More academically oriented friends
      • High school athletes less likely to drop out and more likely to attend college
    • Team captains and MVPs achieve in school at even higher rates **(US Dept. of Education, 2005).
    • High school athletes are…
      • LESS likely to dropout
      • But MORE likely to
        • Consistently achieve higher grades
        • Attend college (and better colleges)
        • Get higher education degrees
    • After children have completed their formal education, the experiences and skills acquired from athletics will serve them well in the workplace. Athletes are more likely to have…
      • The ability to communicate more effectively
      • A team first attitude
      • Leadership skills
      • Time management
      • A competitive mindset
    • Multiple sport athletes vs. single sport athletes have even better…
      • Attendance in school
      • Academic performance
      • Increased creativity

      **Ref: Study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise in August, 2007

    Fun Fact: Fitness stimulates brain activity and improves focus, thinking, and memory.

    • The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand.
    • Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.

    **Ref: University of British Columbia study and study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Career

    Skills learned through sport serve athletes well after sports end as well, even professionally.
    • A majority of women executives say that a sport background can help accelerate a woman’s leadership and career potential and has a positive influence on hiring decisions.
      • 80% Female Execs at all Fortune 500 companies played sports
      • 100% of CEOs surveyed said they’d be more likely to hire a student-athlete than a non-student athlete
      • 60% of CEOs surveyed said they would hire a student-athlete with a lower grade-point average before a non-student-athlete with an A-average
    • If a girl does not participate in sports by the time she is 10, she has less than a 10% chance of participating when she is 25.

    **Ref: Lind Bunker, Univ of Virginia, 1989

Schools & Physical Activity
  • There is no federal law requiring schools to provide students with physical education.
    • Additionally, the median physical education budget for schools in the United States is $764 per school year
      • $460 for elementary, $900 for middle, and $1,370 for high schools
    • Clearly, physical education is not a priority.

    **Ref: 2016 SHAPE OF THE NATION © 2016, SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators®

  • Only two states, Oregon and the District of Columbia, meet the national recommendations for weekly time in physical education at both elementary and middle school levels.
    • Guidelines recommend…
      • Elementary schools have 150 minutes of instructional physical education each week
      • And 225 minutes each week in both middle schools and high schools

      **Ref: 2016 SHAPE OF THE NATION © 2016, SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators®

    • Even if all schools adhered to this recommendation, our children would only be getting half of the 60 minutes of daily exercise the government says is necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle.
    • Furthermore, Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist, doesn’t think it’s “near enough to combat all of the issues that young people face today in the academic-oriented, competitive school culture.”
      • She says children need space and time for this important unstructured physical play.
      • Sadly, not only are there insufficient hours allotted for recess, there is often inadequate space to move around.
      • Many schools hold indoor recess in classrooms, which severely limits children’s ability to engage in physical activity.
  • Only 16% of states (8 out of 50) require elementary schools to provide daily recess.
    • And if that isn’t bad enough, many teachers take away recess as a punishment to students
    • Only ten states prohibit withholding physical activity as punishment

    **Ref: 2016 SHAPE OF THE NATION © 2016, SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators

  • Based on this information, is it any wonder that inactivity among children approached 20% in 2014? **Ref:Sports & Fitness Industry Association
    • Plus, participation tends to drop off around age 12 which is a critical time for developing social skills and self esteem. **Ref: National Alliance for Sports
    • Consequently, girls miss out on one of the greatest opportunities they have to build life skills. **Ref: Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace

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