More than half of young adults (aged 16 to 25) in the Netherlands experience mental health problems. High levels of loneliness and suicidal thoughts are also observed in this age group. This is evident from the COVID-19 Health Monitor for Young Adults 2022, a large-scale survey-based study conducted among nearly 70,000 young adults.
Mental health problems higher among women and in cities
More than half of the young adults who took part in the study reported experiencing mental health problems. Women and young adults in urban areas were particularly likely to report such issues. Most of these cases involved mild symptoms, while a smaller percentage reported moderate or severe symptoms. Two in five young adults with mental health problems reporting feeling frequently to continuously restricted in their daily lives as a result, both during and after the COVID-19 period. Half of the young adults experiencing mental health problems had suicidal thoughts in the year prior to the study, ranging in frequency from a few times to very often. Suicidal thoughts were more common among women and among young adults living alone. The majority of young adults who had suicidal thoughts reported having them on a few occasions.
Young adults often feel lonely
Almost two-thirds of young adults are lonely. One-quarter of all young adults feel intensely lonely. Loneliness is most common among young adults with vocational training (secondary special education, practical training, pre-vocational secondary education or secondary vocational education at MBO level 1), women and young adults living alone. Emotional (70%) as well as social (60%) loneliness are fairly common among young adults. Emotional loneliness manifests as a lack of close relationships, while social loneliness is a lack of contact with friends, family and acquaintances.
Two-thirds needed help or support
The extent to which mental health problems among young adults were a consequence of the COVID-19 period is impossible to say based on this study. However, it is clear that this period had an impact on a significant percentage of this age group. Nearly two-thirds of young adults needed help or support as a result of the COVID-19, mainly because they were feeling distressed. Young adults who struggle with mental health problems, are lonely and/or find it difficult to deal with stressful events were more likely to report needing help or support.
About the study
From April through August 2022, all Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) partnered with RIVM on a study among Dutch young adults aged 16 to 25 years: the COVID-19 Health Monitor for Young Adults. Nearly 70,000 young adults all across the Netherlands completed a survey about their health and well-being. They were recruited through advertisements on social media and through various offline channels. It is possible that people who were in poorer mental health may have participated more often, causing the results to depict a more negative impression of the actual situation. Even so, it is clear that the scope of the problem is significant and that mental health is an issue requiring attention in this target group, especially since this age group is relatively difficult to monitor. Once young adults reach the age of 18, they are too old to be covered by youth health and are often in a transition between school and continued education, or between education and work. In order to gain more in-depth understanding and clarify the results of the survey, additional qualitative research is being conducted in groups and in 1-on-1 interviews. The results of this additional research will be published in May of this year. More information on the COVID-19 Health Monitor for Young Adults can be found at monitorgezondheid.nl. For the results of the survey-based study, go toVZinfo.nl and RIVM StatLine.
The Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) conducted the COVID-19 Health Monitor for Young Adults 2022 in the context of the Integrated Health Monitor COVID-19. This programme is a joint initiative of the GOR Network, which consists of the local GGDs, GGD GHOR Nederland (the national umbrella organisation of the GGDs and Regional Medical Assistance Organisations), the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), 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). The aim of the study is to provide insight into the physical and mental health impacts among young adults, resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. The results of the monitor will provide a basis for advising and supporting local and regional policy-makers and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) in formulating policy.
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