The mental health symptoms among adults are no longer associated with COVID-related events that they experienced, such as a SARS-CoV-2 infection or the loss of a loved one. This is evidenced by the latest quarterly update from December 2022. However, people aged 75 and older are still more likely to visit their GP for problems with sleep, memory and concentration than in the same period before the COVID-19 crisis, while people aged 25-44 years were more likely to visit their GP due to suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts. The quarterly study is part of Health Research for COVID-19. In this study, the GOR Network researches the health effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Network for Health Research in Disasters (GOR Network) publishes a quarterly update on this page, summarising key results from survey research and data from primary care providers. The aim is to provide information to municipalities, provinces and the national government of the Netherlands to assist them in formulating policies.
Summary of research round 6
Research round 6 of the quarterly study among adults took place in December 2022. This is the fourth research round among adults, since the first two rounds only looked at young people. A summary of key results from research among adults is provided below.
Mental health problems no longer affected by personal COVID-related events
In all the previous research rounds, there was a strong association between mental health problems, suicidal thoughts and loneliness in relation to things that people experienced due to COVID-19, such as hospital admission. People who had experienced such events were almost twice as likely to have mental health problems. That association was no longer present in December 2022. However, there is a small group of people struggling with long-term impacts from the events they experienced due to COVID-19 or the coronavirus measures.
Mental health problems are stabilising
Between June and September 2022, more adults experienced mental health problems (rising from 18% to 21%) and stress (rising from 25% to 28%). In the latest research round, there was no change in the percentage of mental health problems (21%) and loneliness (42%), while stress decreased slightly (from 28% to 27%).
GP visits for sleep and memory problems and suicidal thoughts
Primary care data showed that adults visited their GP somewhat more frequently for sleep problems in October–December 2022 than in the same period in 2019. This was particularly striking in the oldest age group (75 years and older). Memory and concentration problems were also somewhat more common than in the period before COVID-19, but were reported almost exclusively among the oldest age group. In addition, adults in the youngest age group (25–44 years) were more likely to contact their GP regarding suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts than in the same quarter in previous years.
Approach used in the quarterly study among adults
The quarterly study is based on survey-based research and GP records. Between 28 November and 14 December 2022, a total of 8,161 adults (aged 25 years and older) completed a survey on their mental and physical health. In addition, we look at data from GPs, as entered in the primary care database maintained by Nivel – the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research. GPs keep track of the symptoms and health conditions for which people visit their practice. The data comes from about 380 GP practices, offering healthcare services to roughly 1.6 million registered patients (9% of the Dutch population). We look at differences in age group, gender and province. This research round looked at primary care data from October through December 2022.
Upcoming and previous research rounds
The surveys for the next round will be completed in March 2023. Previous research rounds among adults took place in March, September and December 2022. Five previous research rounds among young people have already taken place in the context of these research programme.