How can you work an 80-hour week in the financial sector without buckling under the pressure? That’s what one of the students wanted to know during the monthly Denkcafé debate in Arminius, on Wednesday 19 October. Unfortunately, the experts didn’t have a cutand-dried answer or a list of survival tips for the 500 attendees – most of them students and young entrepreneurs. What did become clear: as a group, dedicated and ambitious young adults are at risk.
The age at which people are at risk of ‘burning out’ is falling – mainly due to technology – according to labour psychologist Fabian Dekker, when EM spoke with him after the Denkcafé debate. “The under-35s are the first generation to be confronted with this trend. Employers are asking more and more from their employees, and there are fewer and fewer routine jobs. In addition, more and more people work flexible jobs, which has a negative impact on their autonomy. But our performance-oriented society also plays a role: when something doesn’t work out, it is immediately experienced as personal failure.”
His observation is borne out by the statistics. Research performed last year by CBS and TNO shows that in 2014, one out of every seven Dutch employees had burnout complaints – i.e. over one million people. Particularly starters appear to be susceptible: in the 25-35 age group, nearly 17 percent exhibit these symptoms. Things aren’t as bad among 15-to-25-year-olds: 8.7 percent.
However, it’s difficult to determine how students are doing specifically. The reports, however, are worrying. According to research commissioned by the Dutch Student Union, “half of the students suffer from mental health complaints at some point in their studies.”
And Profielen, the magazine published by Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, writes that “7.1 percent of the HR students are suffering from depression.” De Geneeskundestudent, which promotes the interests of medical students: “14.5 percent of medical students report complaints that satisfy the criteria for burn-out symptoms. And this share increases to no less than 17.8 percent among students on clinical rotation.” The student health survey organised by the University of Amsterdam and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences: “17 percent of Amsterdam students indicate that they suffer from mental health issues.” And according to Expertisecentrum Handicap + Studie, mental health problems and psychological conditions are the most common functional impairment among students after dyslexia and concentration issues.
Schijn of werkelijkheid
Based on these studies, we can’t say for sure that there is an increase. We do know that the student organisation ISO and the Dutch Association of Psychologists have surveyed 35 student psychologists, and these professionals have observed an increased demand for support from today’s students.
Moreover, in their view, complaints overall have become more severe. Another disturbing trend: over half the student psychologists believe that the research universities and universities of applied sciences have insufficient capacity to give these students the support they require. At this point, we do not have any figures that shed light on the situation at EUR. The University’s spokesperson’s explanation for their absence is nevertheless telling: “The student psychologists are up to their ears in appointments.”