Northern Ireland news

Almost half of 16-year-olds have mental ill-health, findings reveal

New data has revealed the extent of mental health issues among young people in Northern Ireland.
Paul Ainsworth

ALMOST half of all 16-year-olds in the north meet the criteria for mental ill-health, new research has shown.

The data was published by the Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland, Professor Siobhán O'Neil, and found that 45.2 percent of 16-year-olds experience mental health issues.

The research from the 2023 Young Life and Times and Kids’ Life and Times survey sections on mental health, which were funded by the Mental Health Champion, found 52.9 percent of 16-year-old girls meet the criteria, and 32.8 percent of boys.

The findings also show the wellbeing of 11-year-olds in the north has declined to its lowest scoring level since 2016.

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The survey sections featured questions on the causes of worry and stress for young people, with high proportions concerned over issues including relationships with peers and relatives, and over pressure at school.

Another common stress factor is family household finances.

Professor O'Neill has highlighted recommendations to address the concerns, including a Programme for Government "which prioritises reducing social inequalities and improving the wellbeing of all citizens".

Another recommendation is full relationship and sexuality education being added to the school curriculum and "full implementation" of the Children and Young People’s Strategy 2020-2030 and the Mental Health Strategy 2021-2031.

Professor O’Neill said: “Mental ill-health costs Northern Ireland £3.4 billion annually, and we know the most cost effective approach to reducing the burden of suffering is through early intervention and prevention, particularly in relation to early years, parenting, psychological therapies and addressing bullying in schools.

"This study identifies the sources of stress and worry for children and young people and highlights the policy responses that are needed to address these issues and improve young people’s lives."

Northern Ireland news