a quarter of the Dutch report a mental disorder

NOS/Jeroen van Eijndhoven

NOS Newstoday, 11:23

Significantly more Dutch people suffer from psychological complaints than a few years ago, according to the Trimbos Institute. A questionnaire that the institute has been conducting since 1996 shows that 26 percent of the respondents say that they are dealing with an anxiety disorder, depression or excessive alcohol or drug use, for example. In the previous sample in 2009, this was still 18 percent.

That means that now 3.3 million adults have had a disorder in the previous twelve months, compared to 1.9 million thirteen years ago. “The increase is a major problem,” says professor of psychology at VU Amsterdam, Pim Cuijpers. “We have known for some time that the numbers were high, but that they have risen so much is alarming.”

Many more complaints were registered, especially among young adults. For example, almost one in two students reported a disorder in the past year, 44 percent. That is double compared to thirteen years ago. It is striking that for most disorders young people report more complaints than older people: the over-65s report the fewest problems.

Pressure to perform and individualisation

Although Trimbos has not yet looked into the causes, researcher Annemarie Luik does have a suspicion. “For example, the pressure to perform, which we will investigate further. But you could also think of the individualization of society and the increasing differences in income.”

Liège points out, for example, that the unemployed have more complaints than the employed and that more problems are reported in cities than in the countryside. A higher level of education also means fewer reports of disorders for most categories.

Cuijpers thinks there is another reason why young people report problems more often than older people: “It may also be that young people admit more easily that they are depressed or anxious. The fact that all kinds of artists and singers come out about their problems makes it so for other people easier. You see that in countries where the stigma is greater, there is also less reporting.”

No corona effect

In any case, the researchers are sure that corona played no role in the figures: the conversations had already started before the pandemic and then showed the same trends. The questionnaire was administered between November 2019 and March this year among nearly 6,200 participants aged 18 to 75 years.

Luik says the results underline that psychological care requires ongoing attention. She wants more research into the underlying causes and praises low-threshold initiatives from education and at neighborhood level to get people the right help.

Cuijpers shares her concerns. “From an international perspective, the Netherlands has very good mental health, but apparently it is not able to bring it down sufficiently. I think that is a cause for concern.”