02/05/2012 | Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Youth & Identity
Dutch under-fifteens are no longer top of the list in Europe where alcohol consumption is concerned, according to an international WHO/HBSC report on research into the health and wellbeing of young people in Europe, the United States and Canada. According to Professor Wilma Vollebergh of Utrecht University, ‘The great public concern in recent years about alcohol consumption among young children has apparently had a beneficial effect. Parents have started to pay closer attention to their children’s behaviour. Alcohol consumption has diminished, especially among the youngest age groups (11 and 13-year-olds). Among 15-year-olds, on the other hand, the reduction is less marked. So there is work still to do in the next few years.’
A total of 200,000 children aged 11, 13 and 15 from 39 different countries participated in the international survey, which included questions on how happy and healthy the children felt, their relationships with their parents and friends, and their experience of school life. The survey also looked at whether the children had a healthy lifestyle. Utrecht University, the Trimbos Institute and the Netherlands Institute for Social Research participated in this major study on behalf of the Netherlands. The Netherlands took part in this four-yearly study for the third time in 2009/2010.
Wellbeing greatest among Dutch children
The data shows that Dutch children are, once again, the happiest children in Europe. The Dutch children also reported positive, supportive relationships with their parents and classmates. They have many friends and their involvement in fights and bullying is relatively limited compared to their peers in other countries. Dutch children find school an enjoyable environment and feel the least burden and stress from school work of all the children interviewed in the survey. Vollebergh: ‘The Netherlands has a social culture, with open and safe relationships between parents and their children, and the same applies to the relationships that children have with each other. The pressure to perform is also not as high here.’
Alcohol consumption falling
According to the WHO/HBSC study, young Dutch people went down the European list of the largest alcohol consumers in 2009/2010. The younger age groups (aged 11 and 13) in particular drank alcohol less regularly when compared to other countries, and they were drunk the least often. The researchers suspect that there is a link here with the successful prevention and intervention programmes in recent years that have focussed on alcohol consumption among adolescents under the age of 16 and their parents. Vollebergh: ‘It looks like parents have really taken the new “no alcohol under 16” message on board and are paying closer attention to their children’s behaviour. They have tightened the reins somewhat in this respect. This is especially evident among the 11 and 13-year-olds, who are going out less frequently with their friends, have more or less stopped smoking and are drinking less alcohol. Hopefully the older age groups will now follow suit.’
Dutch children report a healthy lifestyle. In no other country do children have breakfast as regularly as they do in the Netherlands. Vollebergh: ‘Evidently it is a Dutch tradition to start the day together at the breakfast table. Of course, this is another social event.’ Other health behaviours show a healthy pattern as well. Dutch children report few health problems and are dieting less frequently. On the other hand, they watch a relatively large amount of TV, drink soft drinks quite often and do not eat that much fruit. They also occupy a middle-ranking position when it comes to exercising and sports.
The WHO/HBSC report was presented on Wednesday 2 May in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Report and factsheet
The report is available here and a brief factsheet is available here.
Utrecht University Press Office, Wietske de Lange, +31 30 253 40 73, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trimbos Institute Press Office, Marjan Heuving, +31 30 2971 138, email@example.com.
SCP Press Office, Irma Schenk, +31 70 340 56 05, firstname.lastname@example.org.