Almost half of students experience mental health problems

The number of students with mental health issues and problematic substance abuse has doubled over the course of twelve years. This emerges from a study by the Trimbos Institute that was published on Wednesday.

There has been a big increase in anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD and excessive alcohol and drugs use among students. In 2009, 22 percent reported they had had problems of that sort in that year. The figure today is 44 percent. Among the working population it is 21 percent.

The students are outliers in a trend that is visible among nearly all age categories in the Netherlands. Twelve years ago, there were a total of 1.9 million cases; today there are 3.3 million. This emerges from a large-scale health screening programme by the Trimbos Institute, for which 6,200 participants were interviewed in the past three years.


In the daily newspaper Trouw, Psychology Professor Pim Cuijpers calls the results disquieting. But in his view the fact that so many more students say they are having problems could be because it is easier for them to admit to such problems. 

According to him, ‘the figures are generally low’ in countries where mental health disorders are stigmatised. Annemarie Luik, programme director of epidemiology at the Trimbos Institute, gives pressure to perform in education as a possible reason.

Coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus crisis has had little to do with the decline in mental health, according to the study. In fact, the trend was already apparent from the 1,500 interviews that were held before the pandemic.

That does not surprise Cuijpers, he tells Trouw. ‘Previous scientific studies carried out before and during the crisis came to the same conclusion.’

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