The mental health of girls is showing a significant deterioration

Girls report not only more emotional problems in 2021, but also more behavioral problems and hyperactivity/attention problems.

There was an unprecedented decline in mental health among girls in the Netherlands between 2017 and 2021. The researchers write this in the Health Behavior of School-Aged Children (HBSC) report, which presents the results of 20 years of research into the well-being and health of young people in the Netherlands. On Wednesday 14 September, the report will be presented to Her Majesty Queen Maxima during the ‘Youth in the Twenty-first Century’ symposium.

Between 2017 and 2021, the percentage of girls in secondary education who had emotional problems increased 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.” — Principal Investigator Juniki Stevens of Utrecht University

Girls reported not only more emotional problems in 2021 than four years earlier, but also more behavioral problems and hyperactivity/attentional problems. Mental health among the boys also deteriorated. For example, the figure that both girls and boys give their lives for has never been lower than it was in 2021: an average of 7.1. While this number was more than 7.5 in previous years, and even 8 in 2001. However, the magnitude of the deterioration in mental health among boys is not proportional to the magnitude of the deterioration among girls. According to the researchers, these findings underscore the importance of a new government approach to mental health: for all of us, young people are given special attention.

School work pressure triples in 20 years
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. Stevens: “In 2001, only 16% of young people in secondary education indicated that they were (totally) under great stress due to schoolwork. In 2021 this percentage rose to 45%. Here, too, we see a more unfavorable development for girls 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. This will still be the case in 2021. The proportion of young people who indicate that they can easily talk to their father, mother or close friend, for example, will be as high in 2021 as it was in 2017. However, girls in secondary education are somewhat What less positive about support from 2017 to 2021. Friends, atmosphere between classmates and their relationship with teachers. The percentage of young people who report that they often experience cyberbullying or experience cyberbullying also increased between 2017 and 2021. For girls in primary schools, for example, the percentage indicating they often experience cyberbullying rose from 1 to 6%. In the same group, the proportion of problem social media users increased from 2-5% between 2017 and 2021.

Impact of the corona crisis
The deterioration of mental health among girls (especially) is likely largely related to the Corona crisis. Stevens: “But this does not mean that the problem will be resolved once the Corona crisis becomes a thing of the past.” According to a youth researcher in Utrecht, it is very likely that developed mental impairment will not disappear among girls. A decrease in the percentage of pupils experiencing stress due to schoolwork is not necessarily expected. “The educational shortcomings caused by the Corona crisis may be a catalyst for social development already in place: the increasing importance that young people, their parents, and society in general place on performance in school,” Stevens said.

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, among 15 and 16 years old in 2021, 42 and 60%, respectively, drank in the past month. 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, funded by the Department of Health, Welfare and Sports, also addresses other topics, such as eating and exercise behaviour, sexual behavior and gaming. Differences in age, gender, educational level, immigration background, family type, and family wealth were studied for all subjects.

more information
Read more in HBSC 2021 Report
Read more about the HBSC study

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