Dutch teenagers feel less healthy and happy, and more stressed

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Dutch teenagers are smoking and vaping more and are still experiencing the effects of the Coronavirus lockdown, a youth health survey carried out every four years has show.

The monitor, carried out by health board GGD and health institute RIVM, looks at 188,000 teenagers aged between 12 and 16.

The researchers found young teenagers are less positive about their state of health and happiness. In 2015 88% said their health was very good but this has dropped to 80% in 2023.

Vaping and/or smoking have increased among younger teens, rising from just 5% in 2019 to some 11% in 2023, which researchers said is particularly concerning. Vaping has quadrupled from 2% to 9% in the last four years and a recent probe of vapes confiscated at schools showed that some of the products were packed with harmful chemicals.

Teens are more likely to say they suffer from mental problems compared to 2019, the survey showed. Stress surrounding homework and school is seen as the main issue, followed by “all the stuff you have to do”. Half of the teens said they often felt very stressed.

Twice as many girls as boys said they were having psychological problems and suicidal thoughts. Some 4% of teens said they had contemplated ending their lives in the last twelve months.

Compared to an extra survey carried out during the pandemic in 2021, teens’ mental health had stabilised but researchers said it is worrying it hasn’t improved since the restrictions had ended.

Social media were also found to be a reason for declining mental health, with more teens saying they had been bullied online. Others said they did not get enough sleep or neglected their homework because of social media.

Around 1% of teens said they did not identify either as girl or boy. The percentage of teens who considered themselves happy and healthy in this group was significantly lower, scoring higher on vaping and smoking and psychological problems.

Anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts can chat with someone anonymously at www.113 or ring the free number 0800-0113.

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