Dutch kids happy, but feel more pressure in school

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Teens sharing earphones (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget). Teens sharing earphones (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget)

Dutch kids are still among the happiest in Europe and tend to have a good relationship with their parents, but more are experiencing pressure from their school work, according to a study by Utrecht University, the Trimbos institute and SCP. The researchers also found that the majority of 16-year-olds drink alcohol despite being underage, and that condom use is declining, NOS reports.

This study is done among kids between the ages of 11 and 16 every four years. Researchers talk to kids in this age group about their parents, alcohol consumption, school, sex and bullying, among other things.

Since this study was launched for the first time in 2001, kids in the Netherlands have been in the top 5 happiest in Europe, and that is still the case, according to the researchers. Other countries that score well on the happiness level of their kids are Finland, Iceland, Albania and Armenia. Kids in Turkey, Romania and Poland are least happy.

The relationship between kids and their parents is generally very good. An overwhelming majority say they feel comfortable talking to their parents if they have problems. Among 12-year-olds, 93 percent say they can easily talk to their mothers and 87 percent can do the same with their fathers. This decreases slightly as they get older, but 88 percent of 16-year-olds are still comfortable discussing their problems with their mom and 78 percent with their dad. 

More kids are experiencing pressure from their school work. In 2001 only 16 percent said they feel stressed due to school work, now its over 35 percent. The researchers attribute this to higher diploma requirements, more homework and a greater emphasis on achievement. Despite the increased pressure, the researchers found no increase in psychological problems compared to four years ago. 

Over the past four years, little changed in when teenagers start having sex. On average about 10 percent of teenagers under 17 have had sex at least once. 23 percent of 16-year-olds are sexually active.

A worrying development the researchers noticed, is that condom use among among sexually active teens declined sharply over the past years. In 2009 over 80 percent of sexually active teenagers used a condom. Last year it was only 55 percent. This decrease is noticeable across the board, and is therefore not linked with other variables like gender, school level or family welfare. The reason for the decrease was not investigated specifically, but the researchers think it may be linked to the Safe Sex campaigns stopping in 2011. 

The number of teenagers who drink alcohol remained mostly stable since 2013. 40 percent of surveyed 15-year-olds and 53 percent of 16-year-olds had a drink in the last month. Over 70 percent of them drink at least five glasses of alcohol on one night. 

While alcohol use remained stable, smoking is on the decline. For the first time the proportion of high school kids who smoke an e-cigarette or vape is higher than the percentage that smoke cigarettes, 28 percent and 17 percent respectively. 

For the first time, the researchers also looked at social media use last year. Over 30 percent of high school pupils have contact with others on social media throughout the day. 7 percent of these pupils use social media to a problematic degree. This is more common among girls than boys. Boys are more likely to have problems with gaming. About 13 percent of boys play games at least 24 hours per week. And 7 percent of boys are described as problematic gamers. 

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