Twice as many in 12 years

Almost half of students in the Netherlands have mental health problems

Photo: Pixabay

There has been a significant increase in anxiety, depression, ADHD and substance abuse among university students in the Netherlands. In 2009, 22 percent of students reported having problems of that sort. Today, that's 44 percent — a much bigger slice compared to the working population (21 percent).

The students are outliers in a trend verifiable among practically all age categories. Twelve years ago, there were a total of 1.9 million cases, while today there are 3.3 million. These are the results of a large-scale health screening programme carried out by the Trimbos Institute, for which 6,200 participants were interviewed throughout the past three years.

Pim Cuijpers, a Psychology Professor at VU Amsterdam, deems the results "disturbing" in an interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw. However, he does concede that the higher occurrence of such problems among higher education students may be due to students finding it less hard to admit to these issues. According to him, “the figures are generally low” in countries where mental health disorders are stigmatised, which doesn't mean that mental health issues do not occur. Annemarie Luik, Director of the Epidemiology Programme at Trimbos Institute, thinks that the pressure to perform academically is one of the explanations.

The coronavirus pandemic has had little to do with the decline in mental health, the study claims. In fact, the trend was already apparent from the 1,500 interviews held before the pandemic — something that does not surprise Cuijpers, according to his interview with Trouw. “Previous scientific studies carried out before and during the pandemic came to the same conclusion.”