The fourth round of the quarterly youth study (children, adolescents and young adults aged 12 to 25 years) took place in June 2022. The results are part of the Health Research for COVID-19 study. This survey showed that there was recovery in physical symptoms and confidence in the future, compared to the previous round. However, young people are still struggling with poor mental health.

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 the municipalities, the provinces and the national government of the Netherlands to assist them in formulating policies.

Summary of research round 4

Results have been published from three previous research rounds focusing on young people in the Netherlands. In round 4, adults (26 years and over) were also included in the study. The results of that research will be published later. This is a summary of key results from youth research.

Physical recovery

Compared to September and December 2021, the results from research round 4 show overall recovery in terms of young people’s physical symptoms, perceived health and confidence in the future. The survey responses also show that delayed care is increasingly being caught up.

Mental recovery lagging behind

On the other hand, mental health among young people shows hardly any improvement compared to the last lockdown period. The percentage of young people with suicidal thoughts only decreased by 1% (from 17% to 16%). Similarly, primary care data does not show any improvement in the number of GP visits related to suicide.

There is a strong correlation between suicidal thoughts and mental symptoms or feeling lonely. Suicidal thoughts were more common among girls in all age groups and young people aged 18–25, but gender or age on their own do not represent an increased risk of having suicidal thoughts. The percentage of young people with mental health problems decreased by 2% (from 39% to 37%). There was a 3% decrease in young people who reported feeling a bit lonely, but the group that reported feeling very lonely is just as large as in round 3 (16%). The number of young people suffering from stress decreased by 5%.

Impact of COVID-19 period on personal development

The survey in this research round included two open questions. We asked about how the COVID-19 period had affected the lives of young people. The answers showed that there was a major impact on young people’s personal development, for example due to learning deficits or because they missed out on important years of their life. Young people also often reported having mental and physical symptoms and fewer social contacts.

No more measures, or faster intervention

We also asked young people about their hopes and desires for the future, for example about how to respond to a new wave of infections. Of the young people who answered this question, a majority (57%) indicated that they do not want any coronavirus measures. The young people who do want measures (34%) hope that faster intervention can prevent stricter measures, such as a lockdown or curfew. Young people also want the government to come up with an action plan for responding to pandemics. They want social interaction to remain possible, and they want policies to give more consideration to mental health. Young people hope to see increased respect for different opinions and a less divided society.

Situation during the research round

The fourth round looked at the period from March 2022 to May 2022. The primary care data covers GP visits from April 2022 to June 2022. The previous research round (March 2022) covered a period in which measures were still in effect, but in the period prior to this research round (June 2022), the number of SARS-CoV-2 infections were dropping and the last coronavirus measures were discontinued. For example, the recommendation to work from home was lifted, people no longer had to wear face masks in public transport, and people who had symptoms were advised to use a self-test instead of getting tested by the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs).

Approach used in the quarterly youth study

The quarterly study is based on two data sources: survey-based research and data from primary care providers (GPs). In June 2022, a total of 4,179 young people (children, adolescents and young adults aged 12 to 25) completed a survey on their mental and physical health. In addition, we looked at the data provided by GPs (in the primary care database maintained by Nivel – the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research). GPs keep track of the symptoms and health conditions of people who visit their practice.

Three previous youth surveys have been published. By now, the quarterly study has given us multiple research rounds with consistent results, so trend charts will be provided from this round on. Previous charts only showed the latest results, but a trend chart displays the percentages for all the research rounds at once.

Upcoming and previous research rounds

The surveys for round 5 were completed between 5 September 2022 and 19 September 2022; the results will be published later. Previous surveys were conducted in September 2021, December 2021 and March 2022.