Hip to be square: Dutch teenagers smoke, drink, and have less sex

This paving stone warns teenagers not to hang around in doorways. Photo: DutchNews.nl

This paving stone warns teenagers not to hang around in doorways. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Dutch teenagers are among Europe’s least likely to engage in underage smoking, drinking, cannabis use and sex, according to a large scale study of children from 42 countries.

The study surveyed 11, 13, and 15 year olds, and found that not only do Dutch children smoke, drink, and have less sex than most of their European peers, but they have even cut back since the last survey in 2009.

‘All is well on almost all fronts with the Dutch youth. They are healthy and happy, and have been so for some time,’ said Gonneke Stevens, a researcher at Utrecht University who was involved in the study.

Children in Europe and North America were surveyed by HSBC in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO). They were asked about how healthy and happy they feel, their experience in school, and their relationships with family and friends.

School pressure

The study also found that Dutch children are experiencing more pressure from schoolwork than before, but are easily able to talk to their parents about such problems.

Physically, Dutch teenagers are in decent condition too. However, while obesity occurs rarely in Dutch youth, they are more likely than average to consider themselves overweight.

A different reality

While the study paints a healthy and wholesome picture of Dutch teenage behaviour, the reality might be less rosy.

Last year over 930 teenagers were hospitalised for excessive alcohol consumption, a 20% rise since 2014. The average age of the hospitalised teenagers was 15 years and 4 months.

This rise in hospital admissions comes despite parents becoming much tougher in their attitudes to teenage drinking. Last year only 50% of teens drank with their parents’ permission, down from 75% in 2011.

‘They are carrying on drinking heavily, but doing it in secret,’ paediatrician Nico Van der Lely told broadcaster Nos.