The percentage of young people who report having mental health problems has hardly decreased since the last lockdown (in early 2022). This is evidenced by the latest quarterly update from December 2022. The number of young people visiting their GP for mental health problems, such as depression, has returned to the 2019 levels from before the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of the quarterly study are part of the Health Research for COVID-19.
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 6
Results have been published from five previous research rounds focusing on young people in the Netherlands. From round 3 on, adults (26 years and over) were also included in the study. The following is a summary of key results from youth research.
Upward trend in mental health recovery has not continued
Mental well-being (in terms of mental health problems and suicidal thoughts) among young people seemed to be recovering slightly in summer 2022. In March 2022 – after the lockdown at the end of 2021 – 39% of young people reported having mental health problems. In September 2021, this was 25%. Despite that, the percentage of young people experiencing mental health problems increased again after that, rising from 32% in September and 34% in December. The figures for suicidal thoughts show a similar trend. The figures on suicide attempts – retroactively reported by participants for the previous 3 months – showed a similar trend: 8% in September 2021, 17% in March 2022 after the lockdown, 13% in September 2022 and 15% in December 2022. Well-being among young people has not continued to recover.
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.
Young people are largely unconcerned about COVID-19
Young people appear to be largely unconcerned about a SARS-CoV-2 infection or possible coronavirus measures, compared to other topics. They are more concerned than adults, however. In an extra survey question with room for open answers, many young people expressed concerns about inflation, high gas and energy prices, and the housing market. Researchers did not find any association between these concerns and the mental health of the participating young people.
More GP visits related to suicide than in 2019
Compared to the same period in 2019, in October–December 2022 there were 28% more GP visits related to suicide among young people aged 15 to 24 years. These visits relate to fatal and non-fatal suicide attempts, but also to suicidal thoughts. Primary care data shows that young people in October–December 2022 were just as likely to visit the GP for mental health problems (such as symptoms of depression) as before the COVID-19 pandemic. In all previous research rounds from 2021 until summer 2022, more young people had seen their GP for these symptoms than in 2019. This finding at the end of 2022 is particularly striking, since the percentage of young people with self-reported mental health problems did not decrease. One possible explanation could be that these young people sometimes do not seek help. 20% of young people stated in December 2022 that they needed help with mental health problems. 16% of them did not seek help. 5% did seek help, but were unable to find it.
Approach used in the quarterly youth study
The quarterly study consists of data from two sources: the survey-based study and the primary care data provided by GPs. From 28 November to 14 December 2022, a total of 3,993 young people (aged 12-25 years) completed a survey on their mental and physical health. The primary care data (from the Nivel Primary Care Database) encompasses visits to general practitioners in the period from October 2022 to December 2022. GPs keep track of the health problems and conditions for which people visit their practice.
Upcoming and previous research rounds
The surveys for round 6 were completed between 28 November 2022 and 14 December 2022. Previous surveys were conducted in September and December 2021 and in March, June and September 2022. The following research round is planned for March 2023.