The Children’s Society is calling for more to be done to support the mental health of teenagers.
The charity’s annual Good Childhood Report into the issue claims that nearly a quarter of girls aged 14 (22%) said they had self-harmed in the last year.
More than 11,000 children took part in the survey, which shows that overall one in six (16%) reported self-harming at this age. The incidence among boys was lower than girls at 9%.
Based on these figures, The Children’s Society estimates that nearly 110,000 children aged 14 may have self-harmed across the UK during the same 12-month period, including 76,000 girls and 33,000 boys.
Matthew Reed, chief executive at The Children’s Society, said: “It is deeply worrying that so many children are unhappy to the extent that they are self-harming.
“Worries about how they look are a big issue, especially for girls, but this report shows other factors such as how they feel about their sexuality and gender stereotypes may be linked to their unhappiness.”
Abbie from Bristol is now 21 and training to be a children’s nurse.
She self-harmed between the ages of 15 and 19 before managing to break the cycle.
She says: “I used to cut myself. It was a cry for help and then it became addictive and I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
She blames the rise in self-harm among young people on factors which include teachers having less time to spend with their students to see how they are and mental health resources being stretched.
The research also suggests both boys and girls can be harmed by gender stereotypes and pressure to live up to these expectations.
It claims children felt under pressure from friends to be good looking, but those who felt boys should be tough and girls should have nice clothes were least happy with life.
The charity suggests happiness with family relationships could be the best protection for children because it has the biggest positive influence on their overall well-being.
Matthew Reed added: “It’s vital that children’s well-being is taken more seriously and that much more is done to tackle the root causes of their unhappiness and support their mental health.
“Schools can play an important part in this and that is why we want the Government to make it a requirement for all secondary schools to offer access to a counsellor, regularly monitor children’s well-being and have their mental health provision assessed as part of Ofsted inspections.”