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In autumn 2022, 3.7% of adults in the Netherlands were suffering from suspected post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For half of those people, their symptoms were caused by intense experiences that were directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The other half experienced symptoms as a result of intense experiences that were unrelated to COVID-19, such as a life-threatening accident or exposure to sexual violence. A similar percentage of secondary school pupils and young adults experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

These findings are from in-depth analyses by the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (Nivel). These analyses were performed on the data from the COVID-19 Health Monitor 2022 for adults and older people, the COVID-19 Health Monitor 2022 for young adults, and the COVID-19 Health Monitor 2021 for children and adolescents, as well as a large-scale survey-based study conducted by all the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) and the city of Utrecht, in cooperation with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). 

Probable PTSD in 4 to 5% of the population

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that can develop after a person experiences a shocking or threatening event. A probable diagnosis of PTSD is based on a high level of symptoms measured using an appropriate survey questionnaire. 4 to 5% of the entire population of the Netherlands has probable PTSD.

Intense events experienced during the COVID-19 period

People of all ages are still suffering from the after-effects of intense events that they experienced during the COVID-19 period. Some of them have a probable diagnosis of PTSD. In addition, it was clear that experiencing intense events that are not related to COVID-19 was more likely to lead to probable PTSD than events that were related to COVID-19. Despite that difference, the massive exposure to events related to COVID-19 means that half of the PTSD indications among adults can be attributed to that cause.

Loneliness is a key risk factor

In all age groups, the risk of developing PTSD is greater after an intense event if the person feels lonely. PTSD symptoms are also closely related to other problems that can affect how people feel, such as mental health problems, headache and sleep disturbance, or reduced confidence in the future.

Read the Nivel news item (in Dutch)

Specific percentages for various age groups and more information about risk factors are covered in more detail in the full news item on the Nivel website. A PDF of the research report is also available there.

About the study

These results are part of Health Research for COVID-19, a GOR Network research programme. The health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis are being assessed in this joint initiative by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the local Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs), GGD GHOR Nederland (the national umbrella organisation of the GGDs and Regional Medical Assistance Organisations), the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (Nivel), and ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre. This programme was commissioned by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS).