Distribution of well-being

© ANP / Joosten Fotografie

The Monitor of Well-being and the Sustainable Development Goals describes well-being in the Netherlands as a whole. As this picture is largely constructed from total and average figures for the overall Dutch population, it does not show categories within the population that may have relatively higher or lower levels of well-being. To remedy this, here we look into the distribution of well-being across groups in the population based on sex, age, education level and origin/country of birth.

New classification of origin/country of birth

The analysis of the distribution of well-being consists of two parts:

  • For each of 13 well-being indicators, grouped into eight themes, the Indicators section below describes the distribution among the population groups, starting with the situation in the most recently measured year (mostly 2022, for some indicators 2021), and subsequently describing the groups for which the indicator has changed relatively favourably or unfavourably since 2019.
  • The Accumulation section examines whether favourable or unfavourable indicator outcomes accumulate for the same individuals and, if so: in which groups this accumulation occurs most frequently. Here, too, we look first at the situation in 2022 and then at changes compared with 2019.

Well-being is not distributed equally across all groups in the Dutch population. It differs especially between groups with different levels of education, groups with different origin/country of birth, and to a lesser extent between age groups. People with lower and medium levels of education have lower levels of well-being than those with a degree in higher education. People born outside the Netherlands, or whose parents – one or both – were born outside the Netherlands, have lower levels of well-being than people born in the Netherlands and whose parents were also born in the country. Well-being of people aged 25 to 34 years is below average, while for 45- to 64-year-olds it is relatively high. There are hardly any differences between men and women.
Favourable or unfavourable outcomes sometimes accumulate for certain individuals. Favourable outcomes accumulate more for people with higher than for people with lower education levels. Unfavourable outcomes are more likely to accumulate for people with lower education levels. Additional large differences in accumulation can be observed between different origin/country-of-birth groups and between age groups.

Generally speaking, the distribution of Dutch well-being has not changed much from 2019. However, in relative terms younger groups have a slightly lower level of well-being, just as those with medium education levels. On the other hand, 65- to 74-year-olds and people born in the Netherlands and of whom one or both parents were born outside Europe are often in a better situation. In spite of this improvement, the latter group still chalked up many unfavourable outcomes.

At the individual level, fewer people accumulate favourable or unfavourable outcomes than in 2019. The middle group in the distribution has increased in size. The share of young people (younger than 35 years) who accumulated favourable outcomes shows a sizeable decrease. The proportion of people born in the Netherlands of whom one or both parents were born outside Europe who accumulated favourable outcomes also dropped sharply, which is surprising given that at group level, this category manifested relatively positive developments.


Where possible, the indicators used to describe the distribution of well-being are based on the indicators in the ‘here and now’ dashboard of the monitor: the eight themes used there are also used here. For more details about how and why indicators are selected, see the explanatory notes.

Indicators for distribution of well-being
Theme ‘here and now’Indicator for distribution
Well-beingSatisfaction with life
Material well-beingStandardised disposable income*
HealthPerceived health
Labour and leisure timeNet labour participation
Satisfaction with work
Satisfaction with leisure time
HousingSatisfaction with housing
SocietyVoluntary work
Trust in other people
Trust in institutions
SafetyVictims of crime*
The environmentExperiences pollution in own neighbourhood

* Figures for 2021, as no 2022 data are available.

New classification of origin/country of birth

The classification of the Dutch population by origin/country of birth is new compared with previous editions of the Monitor of Well-being and the Sustainable Development Goals. Up to now the monitor has used the classification into three groups of migration background: native Dutch background, western background and non-western background. Last year CBS started using a new classification, which no longer applies the concepts ‘western’ and ‘non-western’. The article CBS introducing new population classification by origin explains the new classification in more detail, alongside the reasons for its introduction. See also the explanatory notes .

Explanatory notes on distribution