Dutch youth continues to rank among the healthiest and happiest in Europe

HBSC report on the health and well-being of young people in 45 countries

Dutch youths still have a very positive view of their social relationships, are unlikely to experience bullying and have limited psychosomatic issues. Problematic social media use is also far lower in comparison with their European age-group peers. Gonneke Stevens, youth researcher at Utrecht University and project leader for the HBSC study (Health Behaviour in School-aged Children): 'Young people in the Netherlands have reported high levels of satisfaction in terms of social embeddedness for close to two decades now: this refers to the quality of their relationships with parents, friends and classmates. This outlook actually seems to have improved somewhat further in 2017/2018.'

Vader en dochter

The international HBSC report, a four-yearly report on the health and well-being of European children, was published today in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO). Over 200,000 pupils aged 11, 13 and 15 from over 45 countries took part in the 2017/2018 HBSC surveys. The HBSC report thus provides unique insight into the living conditions and mental health of school-age children. In the Netherlands, the survey is conducted by researchers from Utrecht University, the Trimbos Institute and Social and Cultural Planning Office of the Netherlands (SCP).

Coronavirus pandemic 

The generally good relationship between Dutch youths and their parents has certainly been a godsend these past few months. Stevens: 'According to the HBSC figures, the Dutch youth doesn't have much difficulty discussing problems and concerns with their parents. As the coronavirus pandemic plays out, we expect most of them are well-equipped to cope with the stresses of staying at home for months on end.'

Social media 

The HBSC survey results also show that young people in the Netherlands are less likely than their European age-group peers to be intensive social media users. Stevens: 'More importantly, the Netherlands has the lowest percentage of problematic social media users.'

In 2017, adolescents in the Netherlands report significantly fewer psychosomatic complaints than their European peers.

Life satisfaction and psychosomatic disorders 

As in previous years, the Netherlands achieved one of the highest scores in terms of the percentage of young people to rank their lives as satisfactory. Dutch youths also reported considerably less psychosomatic disorders (such as headaches and unhappiness) than their European age-group peers. Stevens: 'Only 7% of countries reported better outcomes among 11 and 15-year-olds. That figure stands at 16% for 13-year-olds.'

Netherlands loses first place in school satisfaction ranking 

In previous measurements, young people in the Netherlands held more positive views about school than their European age-group peers. However, 13 and 15-year-olds are now moving closer to the European average according to recent measurements. This is because the rise in the pressure they are experiencing due to school work and the decline in the school satisfaction rating between 2013 and 2017 have been much stronger in the Netherlands than in other countries.

Substance use 

On average, Dutch 11 and 13-year-olds smoked and drank considerably less than their European age-group peers in 2017. The same did not apply to 15-year-olds, who smoked and drank almost as much as their European counterparts. Cannabis use amongst Dutch youths is also slightly above the European average. 

The full HBSC report is available on the website of HBSC.