Fewer young adults say they are happy

Young adults
© Hollandse Hoogte / Marcel Krijgsman
In 2021, a share of 81 percent in the population aged 18 to 24 said they were happy. This was still 91 percent in 1997. This group shows the strongest decline in happiness. The same applies to life satisfaction. Although a decline is seen across the adult population, a substantial majority are still happy and satisfied with life. When asked about life fulfilment, the majority of adults find life worth living and feel they have something to contribute to society, even among those who say they are not happy. This is evident from new figures that have been released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) as part of the Social cohesion and Well-being Survey (SSW).

In this survey, people aged 18 and over are asked to give themselves a score on two aspects of subjective well-being: happiness and satisfaction. Those who give it a 7 or higher are considered happy or satisfied.

Young adults least likely to be happy and satisfied in 2021

Although both happiness and satisfaction declined after 2019, a large majority of adults (86 percent) still consider themselves happy, and 84 percent are satisfied with life. In 1997, the highest proportion of happy people was still found in the 18 to 24-year-old group; but in 2021, this group had the lowest proportion of happy people. This is similar when it comes to life satisfaction: 77 percent were satisfied in 2021 (the lowest proportion of all age groups), against 85 percent in 1997.

Happiness and life satisfaction
PeriodeSatisfaction, 18 yrs and over (%)Satisfaction, 18-24 yrs (%)Happiness, 18 yrs and over (%)Happiness, 18-24 yrs (%)

Over 9 in 10 adults find life worth living

Aside from happiness and satisfaction, a third measured aspect of subjective well-being is fulfilment. This was only part of the survey in 2020. The vast majority of adults (92 percent) find life worth living and feel they have something to contribute to society (74 percent). People are more consistent when it comes to finding life worth living; more than half of over-18s (53 percent) agree with this. More than 23 percent fully agree with the statement that they feel they contribute something to society.

Of the over-18s who do not see themselves as happy, 63 percent still believe that life is worth living. Of those who do not say they are satisfied with life, 66 percent think so. Furthermore, of those who do not see themselves as happy or satisfied, almost half (both 47 percent) feel they have something to contribute to society.

Find life worth living, 2020
Ervaren geluk en tevredenheidFind life worth living (% of persons aged 18 and over)
Total aged 18 and over92
Neither happy nor unhappy/
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied/

Least sense of fulfilment among young adults and over-75s

Both 18 to 24-year-olds and the over-75s were proportionally least likely to feel that they contribute something to society in 2020. In the case of young people (18 to 24-year-olds), the difference with the 25 to 34-year-olds is related to the fact that they have often not yet completed their education, while in the case of older people, the fact that they are usually no longer in employment plays a role.
The highly educated, those on higher incomes, married people and those who worked or volunteered were more likely to feel that life was worthwhile and to feel that they were contributing something to society. Single people, on the other hand, experienced relatively less sense of fulfilment.

Feeling of contributing something to society, 2020
Leeftijd(Fully) agree they contribute something (%)
18-24 yrs66
25-34 yrs74
35-44 yrs74
45-54 yrs78
55-64 yrs77
65-74 yrs74
75 yrs and over68