Ohio’s girls lead in education, but still lag behind in wages and mental health care • Ohio Capital Journal

A new study of 160 health indicators for Ohio girls showed progress in education, but widespread struggles in mental health and food security.

The Center for Community Solutions used official sources from all 88 Ohio counties and other state and federal data to dissect the economic status, societal shifts and health standards of girls in Ohio.

“Ohio girls ages 18 and younger have weathered a global pandemic that interrupted several years of their education, grew up in the #metoo era, and see social media as an integral part of their lives,” the researchers wrote . “These unique experiences have led to many challenges that have shaped who these girls are and the women they become.”

In terms of education, 47% of girls in kindergarten are “on track with language and literacy,” the study found, and 90% of girls in high school in Ohio graduated in four years by 2022 .

But that education can be hampered by bullying, whether online or on school grounds, CCS concluded.

In a 2021 youth behavioral risk survey, 39% of middle school girls reported being bullied via electronic means, and 28% of middle school girls reported the same bullying. By comparison, male high school students accounted for only 21% of students bullied online, and high school students only 10%.

“Girls are more likely to be victims of bullying than boys, which can lead to an increase in mental health problems and fear of adjustment problems, potentially impacting school attendance and grades,” the CCS study said.

Statistics studied by the Center for Community Solutions show what the group has identified as “crisis levels” for girls when it comes to mental health.

This included data on high school girls showing that 32% of them “had seriously considered suicide in the past twelve months and almost one in four girls had made a plan about how they would attempt suicide.”

The Ohio Department of Health reported 216 suicide deaths among Ohio women under the age of 24 since 2020. Of these, 185 were between 14 and 24 years old, and 31 between 5 and 14 years old.

The state saw a 34% drop in teen births to girls between the ages of 15 and 19, and the study found that pregnancy rates fell in all but one Ohio county.

But CCS also found that only 40% of Ohio high schools were teaching students all of the “critical sexual health education topics” expected of schools under the Ohio Revised Code. This may include HIV and STD instruction, but there is no standardized statewide sex education curriculum.

This data corresponds to the 60% of high school girls who are reported to be sexually active but not using contraceptive methods, according to the study.

In terms of access to food and nutrition, according to the study, 86.2% of high school girls had not eaten breakfast over a seven-day period, and 80% of high school girls reported missing an equal number of breakfasts.

This statistic was highlighted in the report as part of a recommendation for the state to collect more data on not only how many students are not eating, but also the reasons why.

“Data can usually show us what is alarming, but we must continue to search for the answer to why,” the study said.

About 18% of girls reportedly lived in households where annual income is below 100% of the federal poverty line, and 40% of them were in households that received food or financial assistance in 2022, researchers found.

While societal pressures can cause school-age girls to struggle, the CCS research also states that knowing these issues can help improve girls’ situations.

“By understanding the experiences of girls in Ohio, we can create programs and policies that uplift, promote and support the well-being and health of Ohio’s girls, who will become women with a strong foundation for success,” the study said.

Creating resources to create schools “prepared for physical, mental and sexual health education” would build on a facility and staff that girls already trust to provide accurate information and more positive health outcomes, CCS argued.

“Programs that recognize the unique stressors today’s girls face should be tools to make health care services and treatments more accessible,” the study said.