Behavioral Health

Status of Girls

May 31, 2024
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The Center for Community Solutions released new data in 2023, The Status of Women fact sheets, which detailed the social, health, and economic lives of Ohio women.

The fact sheets looked at the status of Ohio women ages 19 and older, but experiences during childhood, adolescence, and teenage years influence the social, economic, and health indicators of womanhood. Ohio girls 18 years and younger have weathered a global pandemic that interrupted several years of their schooling, were raised in the #metoo era, and see social media as an integral part in their lives. These unique experiences have led to many challenges that have defined who these girls are and the women they are becoming.

View the data summary

There are 1.3 million girls living in Ohio; 228,000 or 17.5% live in poverty

The social drivers of health—also known as social determinants of health—are defined as the “conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” The health and well-being of Ohio’s girls is affected by access to and quality of their education, the neighborhoods in which they are raised, access to healthcare, the friend groups they spend time with, the financial stability of their households, and other factors. Simply, the interaction of environments into which a girl is born and raised influences their outcomes later in life.

Children from single-parent families are more likely to face emotional and behavioral health challenges.

Supporting Ohio girls during their formative years is not just something we should do but it is a must do in building a more equitable and healthier Ohio. Through 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.


Individuals who graduate high school and have access to quality education throughout elementary , middle, and high school are more likely to have a successful career, have lower divorce rates, and be civically engaged with their communities. From kindergarten readiness to high school graduation, girls in Ohio continuously demonstrate greater achievement in school than their male counterparts.

  • 47% of kindergarten girls are on-track with their Language and Literacy compared to 41.4 percent of boys according to Ohio's Kindergarten Readiness Assessment
  • 90% of Ohio girls graduated high school in 4 years compared to 85% of Ohio boys, in 2022
  • 67% of Ohio girls experiencing homelessness graduate high school, compared to 91% of girls not experiencing homelessness 
27% of Ohio high school girls were chronically absent in the 2022 – 2023 school year, a 144% increase since the pandemic ended

Eating + exercise

The physical health of girls from childhood through teenage years is impacted by and dependent on their access to healthy communities and organizations, the support of their families, and the psychosocial interactions in their everyday lives. Recognizing the intersectional cycle of emotional and physical health among adolescent girls aids in understanding that nutrition, physical activity levels, and self-satisfaction are intertwined; solutions to improve the health of Ohio girls must address this complex interaction.

Parents in Ohio were more likely to report that their child was concerned about their body weight, body shape, or body size, compared to all parent respondents nationwide.

  • 1 in 4 parents noted that their child aged 6-17 engaged in extremely picky eating
  • 16% of youth ages 10 to 17 were obese from 2019 – 2022
1 in 5 girls were not physically active for 60 minutes in the last 7 days
  • 1 in 3 girls who used to play sports have quit
  • 80% of Ohio middle school girls and 86.2% of high school girls had not eaten breakfast at all in the last seven days 

Mental health

Rates for depressive thoughts, suicidal ideation, and self-harm are up for both boys and girls, but girls are being affected at much higher rates. Fights over reproductive rights, outdated gender norms, and social media use may all contribute to the poor mental state that girls are experiencing. The pandemic and unstable academic years interrupted these girls’ formative years, influencing their mental health.

Ohio’s girls are in crisis
  • 56% of high school girls felt hopeless every day for 2 weeks in the past 12 months; 32% seriously considered suicide
  • 28% of Ohio high school girls and 40% of middle school girls reported being electronically bullied
  • 8 in 10 Ohio high school girls get less than 8 hours of sleep on a school night 

Sexual health

Understanding sexual and reproductive health requires support from family and mentors and age-appropriate education both at school and home. Sexual health education is not just about sex, but about a girl’s changing body, relationships, and how to live a healthy life. Adolescent and teenage girls (and adolescent and teenage boys) who do not receive adequate sexual and reproductive health education may experience unhealthy situations such as unsafe or unwanted sex, unhealthy relationships, teenage pregnancy, abortions, or sexually transmitted diseases

  • 60% of Ohio high school girls who are sexually active did not use birth control pills, IUD or implant, a shot, patch, or birth control ring before last sexual intercourse; 9% used no methods of contraception
  • 34% decrease in teen births in girls aged 15-19 years old; 87 of 88 Ohio counties have seen teen pregnancy rates decrease
  • 40% of Ohio high schools taught students all 22 critical sexual health education topics in a required course, along with 11.2% of Ohio middle schools
21% of Ohio girls had experienced sexual violence in the last 12 months, compared to 17.9% nationwide 

Risk taking

Youth deaths in the U.S. to drug overdoses more than doubled from 2018 to 2022, to 723 deaths. White adolescents make up the largest share of deaths, but Black and Hispanic adolescents have experienced the fastest increase in deaths.

Ohio girls were more likely to have tried substances in the past and are currently using substances compared to boys.
  • 40% of high school girls have tried vaping products
  • 28% of girls had at least one drink of alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to 18% of boys 

What should we do to support Ohio girls?

  1. Use demographic data for insights into present community dynamics, historical trajectories, and future projections. Use qualitative data to continue to explore the why and experiences of girls in Ohio.
  2. Providing health education early can help youth develop health-enhancing behaviors. Teach girls with the understanding that emotional and physical health are intertwined. Policy and programs should address this intersectionality, as well.
  3. Interventions focused on the needs of girls are critical, as mental illness, and health, present differently between the sexes. Girls have unique struggles with their mental health: social media, body image, bullying, and sexual violence.
  4. Implement programs that recognize the unique stressors that today’s girls are facing, to make mental health resources and treatment more accessible.
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