Mental health difficulties in early adolescence: A comparison of two cross-sectional studies in England from 2009 to 2014.


Purpose: To examine the changes in mental health difficulties in early adolescence between 2009 and 2014 in England. Methods: Analysis reports on data from two cross-sectional samples of adolescents (aged 11-13 years) collected 5 years apart in 2009 and 2014 in secondary schools across England. Samples were matched using propensity scoring, resulting in a total pooled sample of 3,366 adolescents. Mental health difficulties were reported by participants using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Results: Overall, there were similar levels of mental health difficulties experienced by adolescents in 2009 and 2014. Notable exceptions were a significant increase in emotional problems in girls and a decrease in total difficulties in boys in 2014 compared to 2009. Conclusions: The increased prevalence of emotional problems in girls mirrors a trend found in other similar studies, and the results are discussed in the context of recent economic and societal changes. The small decrease in total difficulties in boys, although promising, clearly warrants further research.