Young people (12-25 years) in the Netherlands have fewer mental health symptoms compared to the previous research round in June 2022. This is evidenced by the latest quarterly research update (September 2022) from the GOR Network.  The participants felt somewhat less lonely and had less perceived stress. The percentage of young people who had suicidal thoughts dropped from 16% to 13%. GP visits due to suicide-related thoughts or attempts were still more frequent than before the pandemic, but this difference was reduced in the most recent round. It is worth noting that an increase in ‘social awkwardness’ is reported by young people as well as adults. 

Research results on mental health have hardly changed among adults. In September, 21% of adults were struggling with mental health symptoms and 28% experienced stress. This is a minor increase compared to the previous research round. Loneliness decreased slightly among adults. 

Social awkwardness

Compared to previous research rounds, young people and adults both reported more often that they were struggling with social awkwardness. A striking number of young people indicated that they had become ‘socially disadvantaged’ during the COVID-19 period, because hardly any social activities were possible. Some young people have also become anxious about making new contacts or being around groups of other people. They also reported perceiving more distance between people because they saw each other less often for a while. There are also young people who indicated that they still want to maintain physical distance or avoid busy places, or notice that others are still keeping their distance, even though that coronavirus measure has been discontinued by now.

Adults still cautious

Adults also reported noticing that the COVID-19 period has had an impact on their social contacts, in part because they still want to be cautious about contact with others. They are relatively more likely to indicate that they are still anxious about a SARS-CoV-2 infection and are therefore still distancing. In addition, adults mentioned that two years of less frequent in-person interaction had cause them to lose touch with friends or family. Just like young people, there are adults who find it difficult to resume contact with others.  

About the research programme

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a crisis that is lasting a long time. Much is known about the impact of short-term crises (such as a major accident or natural disaster). Little is known about the impact of slow-moving, long-term crises and how they affect physical and mental health. The GOR Network is compiling more knowledge on this topic in a research programme known as the Integrated Health Monitor COVID-19. The monitor compiles information once every quarter and once a year. This will allow policy-makers to take effective measures in response to the current crisis and similar situations in the future. 

This programme was commissioned by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS).