INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A new report billed as the first comprehensive
assessment of the well-being of Indiana's girls spotlights the tough years
Hoosier girls face starting in middle school, when many of them are
troubled by depression, falling grades and concerns about their weight.
The report released Thursday by St. Mary's College, a Roman Catholic
women's college in South Bend, contains findings on the health, mental
health, well-being and educational progress of Indiana girls ages 10 to
One of the most disturbing findings is that 14.5 percent of Indiana high
school girls reported in 2011 that they had been raped at some point in
their lives. Those figures, from data collected by the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, rank Indiana second among the 46 states
that sent data to the federal agency.
The report's findings suggest that Indiana's girls generally have a harder
time than boys during the often turbulent years as they move from middle
school to high school, said Kristin Jehring Kuter, an assistant professor
of mathematics at St. Mary's College who led the study.
Indiana's girls had rates of inactivity and depression higher than the
national average for girls. Twenty percent of Indiana's high school girls
said in 2011 they did not get even an hour's worth of physical activity on
any day in a given week, compared with 12 percent of boys.
The report shows that in 2011, 18.5 percent of Indiana girls in high
school were overweight, and 11.5 percent of them were obese — both rates
higher than the national average for girls and higher than their male
The same CDC data also show that a higher percentage of high school girls
than boys saw themselves as overweight or obese, when in fact many of them
were neither. The study said that suggests girls struggle with their body
image more than boys and are at higher risk of developing unhealthy
A growing number of Indiana girls also face growing feelings of sadness
and hopelessness as they enter middle school, with those feelings peaking
in the ninth grade, when about a third of them reported in 2012 such
feelings of despair. About a fifth of Indiana's eighth-grade girls
reported having suicidal thoughts.
Kuter said those findings and others showing that girls' performance in
math and science courses drop significantly compared with boys as they
move from middle school to high school point to need for more research on
what factors are behind those trends.
"My thought is that it could have something to do with that change from
middle school to high school that's contributing to depression and other
mental health issues. It's got to have some kind of influence on their
academics as well," she said.
Kuter said St. Mary's College would prepare a follow-up study in three
years to explore in greater details many of the initial report's findings.
Kristin Garvey, executive director of the Indiana Commission for Women,
said the report's findings, particularly those on depression and suicidal
thoughts, could help practitioners who work with girls pinpoint when those
youngsters need intervention.
She said the new report is the most wide-ranging look she's seen on
Indiana's girls and their adolescent years.
"The most significant piece of this report is that it's a comprehensive
look — a snapshot of the girls in Indiana," Garvey said.