The mental health of the girls deteriorated sharply | news item

news item | 2022-09-14 | 12:15

The mental health of girls in the Netherlands deteriorated sharply between 2017 and 2021. This is evidenced by the Health Behavior of School-Age Children (HBSC) report, which contains the results of 20 years of research into the well-being and health of young people in the Netherlands. The report will be presented today to Her Majesty Queen Maxima during the symposium “Youth in the Twenty-first Century” in Utrecht.

The HBSC study is conducted every four years by researchers from Utrecht University, the Trimbos Institute and the Office of Social and Cultural Planning. The results show that emotional problems among young people have increased over the past four years. In particular, the percentage of girls in secondary education who had emotional problems increased sharply: from 28% to 43%. Among girls in the eighth group, this percentage rose from 14% to 33% in this period. There is also cause for concern in other areas. Girls reported not only more emotional problems in 2021 than four years earlier, but also more behavioral problems and hyperactivity/attentional problems.

Also boys are less mentally

Mental health among the boys also deteriorated. For example, the score that both girls and boys give their lives to has never been lower than it was in 2021: an average of 7.1. While this figure was up from 7.5 in previous years and up to 8. In 2001, the magnitude of the deterioration in mental health among boys is disproportionate to that among girls. According to the researchers, these findings underscore the importance of the new government approach “Mental Health: All of Us”, in which young people are given special attention.

School work has tripled the pressure

Between 2013 and 2017, the proportion of students experiencing schoolwork stress increased dramatically in 2017-2021. In the past twenty years, this percentage has tripled. In 2001, only 16% of young people in secondary education indicated that they were (totally) under significant stress due to schoolwork. In 2021 this percentage increased to 45%. Here, too, girls show a more unfavorable development than boys.

good social relations

Since the first measurement in 2001, young people in the Netherlands have stood out due to their good social relations with their parents, colleagues and friends. However, girls in secondary education have become somewhat less positive regarding the support of friends, the atmosphere among their classmates, and their relationship with teachers between 2017 and 2021.

The percentage of young people who report that they often experience cyberbullying or experience cyberbullying also increased between 2017 and 2021. In the same group, the proportion of problem social media users increased from 2% to 5% between 2017 and 2021.

Impact of the corona crisis

According to the researchers, it is likely that the deterioration of mental health among girls (especially) is largely related to the Corona crisis. “But that does not mean that the problem will be resolved once the Corona crisis becomes a thing of the past,” said lead researcher Juniki Stevens from Utrecht University. It is quite possible that the developed mental weakness will not disappear only among girls. ”

Nor is a decrease in the percentage of students experiencing stress due to schoolwork necessarily expected. Stevens: “Educational defects as a result of the Corona crisis may be a catalyst for an already existing social development: the increasing importance that young people, their parents, and society in general place on performance in school.”

Smoking and alcohol consumption are still very high

After a long period in which smoking and alcohol consumption declined among young people, this has not decreased further in recent years. The proportion of young people who smoke or drink will still be very high in 2021. For example, in 2021, 42% and 60% of 15-16-year-olds drank in the past month, respectively. And these guys drink a lot. 74 to 83% of alcohol users have had five or more glasses of alcohol on one occasion in the past month. In addition, by 2021, one in ten young people will have smoked in the past month. It is also remarkable that while boys smoked and drank alcohol more often in previous years than girls, these differences disappeared in 2021.

The HBSC survey has been conducted every four years since 2001 by researchers from Utrecht University, the Trimbos Institute and the Office of Social and Cultural Planning. The 2021 HBSC Report also addresses topics such as eating behavior, exercise, sexual behavior, and gaming. Differences in age, gender, educational level, immigration background, family type, and family wealth were studied for all subjects.

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