Perceived mental health: trend stable in 2020

Last year, 12 percent of the Dutch population aged 12 years and over had mental health complaints. This share has been stable over the past four years, despite a small year-on-year increase in mental health problems in the fourth quarter. Mental health problems are slightly more prevalent in the age group 18 to 39 years in comparison with the oldest and youngest age groups. Single people under 65 and single parents are relatively more likely to have mental health complaints. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on newly released figures from the latest Health Survey.

(Poor) mental health was measured by asking survey participants five different questions about their emotional state over the previous four weeks, including: “Have you felt calm and composed?” and “Have you felt downhearted and blue?” Based on the answers, a score was calculated ranging from 0 (extremely unhealthy) to 100 (perfectly healthy). People with a score below 60 were identified as mentally unhealthy. Last year, 12 percent of the population aged 12 years and over had poorer mental health. This share has not changed since the period 2017-2019.

Fewest mental health complaints among young people

Young people in the age group 12 to 17 years (7 percent) as well as people over 65 (nearly 10 percent) were least likely to report mental health problems. In the age group 18 to 39 years, approximately 14 percent reported such problems. In all age groups, there is virtually no change relative to 2019. For the period 2017 to 2020 inclusive, no significant changes in mental health complaints are visible in any of the age groups.
Women are relatively more likely to suffer from mental health problems than men: 14 versus 9 percent.

Prevalence of mental health problems, 2020
GroepMental health complaints (% )
Total (12 yrs and over)11.9
12 to 17 yrs7.2
18 to 24 yrs13.8
25 to 39 yrs14.5
40 to 64 yrs12.1
65 yrs and over9.7

Singles most likely to be in poor mental health

Single people under the age of 65 are relatively most likely to have less than excellent mental health. Approximately one-quarter are in poor mental health. This share is higher than among couples in the same age categories with or without children. In 2020, more mental health complaints were reported by single people under the age of 40 (25 percent) compared to 2019 (20 percent). Partners in couples under the age of 40 without children were more likely to have mental health problems (14 percent) than in 2018 (7 percent) and 2017 (8 percent).
Poor mental health was also relatively more prevalent among single parents (21 percent) than among adults in couples with children (8 percent).

Mental health problems by position in household, 2020
Positie in huishoudenMental health complaints (%)
Single person
Under 4025.3
40 to 64 yrs23.6
65 yrs and over14.5
18 yrs and over in single-parent family16.2
18 yrs and over in family with couple10.1
Under 18 in family with couple5.6
Under 18 in single-parent family*
In couple without children, under 4013.7
In couple without children, 40 to 64 yrs7.7
In couple without children, 65 yrs and over7.8
In couple with child(ren)7.9
Parent in single-parent family21.3
*insufficient observations

Slightly more mental health problems in Q4

In Q4 2020, 12.5 percent of people aged 12 years and over had less than excellent mental health, a somewhat higher share than in Q4 2019 (12.0 percent). In the first three quarters of 2020, there was no increase on the previous year.

Mental health problems
kwartaal2017 (% share of persons aged 12 yrs and over)2018 (% share of persons aged 12 yrs and over)2019 (% share of persons aged 12 yrs and over)2020 (% share of persons aged 12 yrs and over)

In the period August to December 2020 inclusive, CBS included extra questions in the Health Survey/Lifestyle Monitor that were related to the COVID-19 pandemic. All respondents aged 12 years and over were asked how they were feeling during the coronavirus crisis in comparison with the preceding period. These results are currently being analysed and will be published later on this year.