Dutch Teens Report Decreased Well-being, Increased Stress

According to a recent youth health survey conducted every four years by health board GGD and health institute RIVM, Dutch teenagers are grappling with heightened levels of stress and deteriorating well-being, compounded by increased smoking, vaping, and the lingering effects of the Coronavirus lockdown.

The survey, encompassing 188,000 teenagers aged 12 to 16, revealed a decline in teenagers’ self-perceived health and happiness. In 2023, only 80% of respondents rated their health as very good, down from 88% in 2015. Alarmingly, the prevalence of vaping and/or smoking among younger teenagers surged from 5% in 2019 to 11% in 2023, with vaping alone quadrupling from 2% to 9% over the past four years. Some confiscated vape products were found to contain harmful chemicals, underscoring the urgency of addressing this trend.

Mental health concerns have also escalated, particularly stress related to schoolwork and academic pressures. Half of the teenagers reported frequent feelings of stress, with a notable increase in psychological issues and suicidal ideation, particularly among girls. Despite a slight stabilization since the pandemic-induced survey in 2021, researchers are troubled by the lack of improvement post-lockdown.

Social media emerged as a significant factor contributing to declining mental health, with increased instances of online bullying and detrimental effects on sleep patterns and academic performance. Additionally, approximately 1% of teenagers identified as non-binary, experiencing lower levels of happiness and health, coupled with higher rates of smoking, vaping, and psychological distress.

The findings underscore the pressing need for targeted interventions to support Dutch teenagers’ mental health and well-being, address substance use, and mitigate the adverse effects of social media.

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