One in 12 young people have poor mental health

In 2015/2017, 8 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 25 had a poor mental health condition, according to responses in a mental health survey. This was the case for 7 percent in this age group ten years previously. Over one-third of the mentally unhealthy young people have reported suffering from depression in the past 12 months. These are the results of the latest National Health Survey by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

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Across the board, the health condition of young people is similar to ten years previously. The answer to the question ‘How is your health in general?’ was positive among 91 percent of the respondents in 2015/2017. This is not significantly higher than ten years previously. In terms of mental health, there was a marked difference with one decade ago.

Self-reported health conditions of 12 to 24-year-olds (%)

CBS measured mental health by asking young people five questions related to their state of mind. These included: ‘Have you felt great anxiety?’ and ‘Have you been feeling so down that nothing could cheer you up?’. The respondents could choose from six different answers ranging from ‘never’ to ‘all the time’. Based on the answers, a score was calculated ranging from 0 (extremely unhealthy) to 100 (perfectly healthy). Young people with a score below 60 have been identified as mentally unhealthy.

Older youth more likely to suffer from poor mental health

Girls are relatively more often mentally unhealthy than boys, with respective shares of 11 and 6 percent. Poor mental health is also more common among 18 to 24-year-olds than among 12 to 17-year-olds, and more prevalent among young people with a western migration background than among those with a native Dutch background. Similar differences between mental health conditions by background characteristics were seen ten years previously.

Self-reported mentally unhealthy, 2015-2017 (%)
 Mentally unhealthy
Native Dutch7.6
18 to 24 years10.9
12 to 17 years5.4

Many mentally unhealthy young people less healthy overall

Of the young people with poor mental health, 65 percent perceived their own health as less than good. The lion’s share of mentally healthy young people does refer to their own health as good (93 percent). This pattern has barely changed over the past ten years.

Depression most common disorder among mentally unhealthy youth

Mentally unhealthy young people report more long-term disorders than their mentally healthy peers. In 2015/2017, over one-third of mentally unhealthy young people reported having suffered from a depression. Furthermore, they were more likely than mentally healthy young people to have suffered from migraine or severe headaches, allergies, dizziness with falls, or back conditions.

Self-reported disorders among 12 to 24-year-olds, 2015-20171 (%)
 Mentally unhealthyMentally healthy
Migraine or severe headache 30.513.7
Allergy 28.623.9
Dizziness with falls12.13.2
Back disorder8.72.4
1Five most commonly reported disorders among mentally unhealthy young people.

For the analyses in this publication, three survey years have been combined in order to cover a larger group of young people.

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