More women than men with psychological complaints

© Hollandse Hoogte / Richard Brocken
In 2021, 18 percent of the female population aged 12 and over were suffering from psychological complaints. This was 12 percent among the male population. The complaints were most common among teenage girls and young women. Absenteeism due to psychological complaints was also higher among female than among male employees. This is according to the CBS Health Survey and the Netherlands Working Conditions Survey (NEA) by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and TNO.

Psychological health is determined on the basis of answers to five questions from the Mental Health Inventory-5 (MHI-5). The questions are about someone’s state of mind, such as experiencing dejected or gloomy feelings, feeling calm or peaceful, happy, nervous or down. The proportion of both men and women with mental health complaints has not been this high since 2001, the year the MHI-5 was added to the CBS Health Survey.

Almost 1 in 4 girls and young women have psychological complaints

Psychological complaints were most common among teenage girls and young women, the group aged 12 to 24 years inclusive. Twice as many girls and women in this age group had such complaints compared to boys and young men: 24 percent versus 12 percent. In the other age groups as well, more women than men reported mental complaints. Men aged 65 and over were less affected than those in the age groups between 25 and 65 years. Psychological complaints were also less prevalent among older women (65 years or older) than women in other age groups. 

Mental ill health, 2021
LeeftijdMen (%)Women (%)
12 to 24 yrs11.824.3
25 to 44 yrs1419
45 to 64 yrs12.417.3
65 yrs and over9.213.2

Girls feel more performance pressure than boys

In addition, it was mostly women who were likely to already experience pressure from their own or others' expectations at a young age, according to the CBS Perceptions survey. Among 18- to 24-year-old women, 38 percent stated that they often put pressure on themselves. Among men in the same age group this was 26 percent. Such feelings were twice as common among teenage girls (12 to 17 years) as among the boys: 21 percent versus 10 percent. As for the perceived pressure to meet other people’s expectations, a highly similar picture emerges.

Performance pressure among teenagers and young adults, 2021
LeeftijdsgroepFeel pressure to meet own expectations (%)Feel pressure to meet others' expectations (%)
Teenage boys (12 to 17 yrs)10.47.7
Teenage girls (12 to 17 yrs)21.219.4
Young men (18 to 24 yrs)25.815.9
Young women (18 to 24 yrs)38.125.6

More women with work-related mental fatigue

Work-related mental fatigue was more prevalent among female employees aged 15 to 74 years than among male employees: 19 percent versus 16 percent. The gap was even larger among those aged 15 to 24, with 16 percent of young women and 9 percent of young men suffering from mental fatigue complaints due to their job.

Mental complaints feature as the third most common reason for absenteeism after influenza and the common cold. Seven percent of the absent female employees cited psychological complaints, overwork or burnout as a reason for their sick leave. This applied to 5 percent of the male absentees. At 6 percent, the absenteeism rate over 2021 was higher among female than among male employees (4 percent).

Work-related mental fatigue and absenteeism
Werkgerelateerde klachtenMen (% of employees)Women (% of employees)
Work-related mental fatigue15.718.9
Absenteeism due to
mental complaints, overwork and burnout
Source: CBS, TNO

A detailed description of the differences in health and lifestyle between men and women in the Netherlands is provided in the recently published CBS Emancipation monitor, 2022 edition (Dutch only).