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Girls who play sport have significantly better body confidence and mental well-being

The new research conducted by Lidl shows that by the age of 13, one in two girls give up sport completely.

Updated 14.50

GIRLS WHO PLAY sport report having significantly better body confidence and mental well-being, according to new research conducted by Lidl.

Leah Caffrey tackles Sarah Rowe Mayo's Sarah Rowe and Dublin's Leah Caffery in action. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

By the age of 13 though, one in two girls will have given up sport completely, with 47% of those saying their main reason for quitting was that their friends weren’t playing.

Most girls that quit do so in secondary school, whereas third level is the more likely drop off point for their male counterparts.

The research also found that encouragement for girls in sport was low, and parents are more likely to discourage their son from giving up sport than their daughters.

Three in four girls agreed that male sports is taken more seriously than women’s sport.

“There are a few statistics that really struck a chord with me,” Irish high jump record-holder and head of Corporate Social Responsibility with Lidl Deirdre Ryan said.

“The biggest one was that 76% of girls give up because they’re not encouraged. For me, that was just really sad to hear because any time I felt like giving up it was my parents that really supported me to stay involved.

“The fact that 50% of girls give up in school and feel more academically under pressure. It’s important to give an understanding for parents and teachers and girls that being involved in sport will actually help you academically, and with your health and well-being.”

Source: Lidl Ireland/YouTube

Deirdre Ryan Deirdre Ryan at London 2012. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The data confirmed that all girls have pressures in life, but girls who play sport have ways to deal and coping mechanisms as opposed to those who don’t.

Almost two in three teenage girls have experience with peer pressure, mainly pressure to look a certain way.

Girls who play sport say they are much happier, more supported and less lonely and depressed. 68% of girls who play sport feel happy daily, whereas it’s 49% of those that don’t play.

No girls who play team sports reported to be feeling lonely daily, 10% that don’t play did. Girls playing sports are more likely to feel supported weekly, and rarely feel depressed.

This also carries into later life, as women who play sport rate their body confidence, mental well-being and ability to cope with life’s pressures as much higher than those that don’t play sport.

Adult-wise, more men than women play sport — one third of men, as opposed to just 14% of women.

84% of girls surveyed said that they played a team sport, Gaelic football proving the most popular at 60%. Camogie was second at 28%, while soccer, basketball and swimming completed the top five.

Ciara O'Sullivan with the trophy as the team celebrates Ciara O'Sullivan and her Cork side celebrate their All-Ireland win last September. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“From a ladies football perspective, being a team sport targeting females, to me it is about the social element in it for girls,” National Development Officer of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA), Paula Prunty says.

“And the fact that mothers and parents are very much so the influencers. We (the LGFA) do a lot of work with coaches to encourage girls to stay in sport.

“To me, it tells us to do more with parents and messages for parents, not necessarily just coaches.”

The research was commissioned by Lidl and the LGFA with the main aim of understanding why teenage girls play and don’t play sport, and capturing the viewpoints of girls and parents whose daughters play and don’t play sport.

The survey sample of 800 included 129 girls aged 12-17, 155 parents and 500 adults aged 18-44, 60% female.

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