Well-being here and now: health

Health – both actual and perceived health – is a key factor of quality of life. People suffering from illness and chronic disease often cannot fully participate actively in society. Nutrition is also an important factor in quality of life. One of today’s biggest issues in this respect is overweight.
  • The increase in overweight adults has stopped. Approximately half of Dutch adults are overweight, which is low compared with other countries in the EU.
  • The percentage of the population with severe limitations doing usual daily activities is relatively small and is decreasing. In 2023, it was 4.9 percent of the population aged 16 and older.
  • The percentage of people suffering from severe long-term health-related limitations is decreasing, but an increasing percentage have mental health issues.
  • Healthy behaviour is increasing. The percentage of people who smoke tobacco products is decreasing. Alcohol consumption and smoking are lower in the Netherlands than in most other EU countries.

Well-being 'here and now'


years at birth in 2023
out of 27
in EU
in 2021
Healthy life expectancy of men A)
years at birth in 2023
out of 27
in EU
in 2021
Healthy life expectancy of women A)
of the population over 18 in 2023
out of 26
in EU
in 2019
Overweight adult population
Well-being 'here and now'
Theme Indicator Value Trend Position in EU Position in EU ranking
Health Healthy life expectancy of men A) 64.1 years at birth in 2023 17th out of 27 in 2021 Middle ranking
Health Healthy life expectancy of women A) 62.4 years at birth in 2023 20th out of 27 in 2021 Middle ranking
Health Overweight adult population 50.0% of the population over 18 in 2023 5th out of 26 in 2019 High ranking

Life expectancy generally increases slightly every year, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it fell slightly. Since 2022, life expectancy has been rising again, bringing it almost back to its 2018 level. However, this monitor uses healthy life expectancy, which adds a qualitative element to ‘ordinary’ life expectancy by combining health data with mortality data. The result is expectancy of life experienced in good or very good health. This is lower for women than for men (62.4 years versus 64.1 years), whereas for ‘ordinary’ life expectancy, it is the other way around: 83.3 years for women and 80.3 years for men. So women live longer on average but spend a larger part of their lives in poorer health. The figures for the international ranking in the monitor are based on a slightly different definition of healthy life expectancy than the figures for the trend in the Netherlands: the international figures refer to ‘disability-free life expectancy’.

Overweight is an important indicator for people’s lifestyle. In 2023, half the Dutch population aged 18 and older had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25.0 or higher, and were therefore considered to be overweight. The previously rising trend has now stabilised. SDG 3 Good health and well-being shows that overweight already occurs at young ages. In 2023, 12.7 percent of 4 to 17-year-olds were overweight. The medium-term trend for this age group is also stable. The SDG 3 dashboard further shows that the Dutch have a healthier lifestyle than residents of many other EU countries.

The percentage of tobacco smokers is relatively small, and alcohol consumption is relatively modest. Moreover, the trend for smokers is downward. The dashboard for SDG 2 Zero Hunger includes a number of indicators related to a responsible and healthy diet.

Just over three-quarters (77.5 percent) of the population rated their own health as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ in 2023. This percentage is much lower than in 2020 and 2021 and also low compared with the years before that. In the COVID years 2020 and 2021, a remarkably large share of the Dutch population were positive about their own health. In 2023, 4.9 percent of the population experienced severe health-related limitations when undertaking usual activities. However, the downward medium-term trend suggests improvement in this respect. Alongside physical fitness, mental health is also important for well-being. People scoring 60 or higher on the Mental Health Index are considered not to have mental health problems. By far most of the population are in this category, but this group is shrinking steadily (red trend). It underwent a particularly sharp fall in 2021, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic: by 3.2 percentage points to 84.9 percent. In 2023, the percentage increased again, to 86.3 percent.

The SDG 3 dashboard addresses the quality of the healthcare system based on indicators such as the number of hours worked in healthcare and the vaccination rate. In 2023, healthcare work averaged 106 hours per capita, and the trend is increasing. This increases resources and opportunities for residents in need of care. The average length of stay for clinical admissions was 5.2 days in 2022, the second shortest in the EU: only Bulgaria has a shorter average hospitalisation. Healthcare providers and insurers have agreed maximum acceptable waiting times for healthcare procedures, the Treek norms. In 2023, waiting times for outpatient specialist care exceeded this norm – of four weeks – in 47.5 percent of cases. Waiting times are increasing, and the trend is upward.

An indicator for the use of healthcare is the measles vaccination rate. In 2023, 89.4 percent of children born in 2020 had received an MMR vaccination. For the first time in years, the vaccination rate appears to have dipped below 90 percent. This is clearly below the WHO norm of 95 percent, the level deemed necessary to eradicate measles. However, no trend is now calculated for this indicator. This is because since 1 January 1 2022, parents are asked for permission to provide vaccination data, which has probably resulted in an underestimation of the actual vaccination rate.