A recent stream of alarming reports suggests an increased incidence of stress and burn-out complaints among students. But the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) did not succeed in confirming this through research. In a recently published report on young people’s mental health, RIVM observes that there has only been a “very modest” increase in the number of 18-to-25-year-olds with mental health problems. But researchers were unable to determine, based on the current data, whether this increase could be contributed to e.g. the pressure to perform, social media or the introduction of the loan system.


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RIVM: Causes of stress among young people still unclear

More and more young people apparently suffer from stress and burnouts. However, it is…

Which is a shame, according to the Minister. As she reiterated in response to parliamentary questions, she hoped to learn more about the factors that contribute to stress. She had asked RIVM to review the existing data side by side. However, previous research results could not be compared because in many cases the consulted studies used different measuring instruments and terminology.

That’s why Van Engelshoven has tasked RIVM with a new study. At the behest of the House of Representatives, the Institute will be performing a quantitative baseline measurement that can be used as a starting point for reliable data. This autumn, the RIVM researchers will be sitting around the table with a variety of parties to confer on the optimal approach and a single, unambiguous conceptual framework. The associated study will kick off in 2020, with the results expected later that year.


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Breeding ground for burnouts

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According to GroenLinks and ChristenUnie, there are already numerous signs that more adolescents are suffering from mental health problems. The parties have asked the Minister to clarify which actions she will be taking in anticipation of the new RIVM study. A lot is already being done in this area, according to Van Engelshoven. Various institutions are performing their own research and informing students about stress. The Student Welfare working group is working to identify possible solutions, and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has also commissioned a follow-up study.

The Minister is unable to say whether the higher education institutions employ enough student psychologists. Expertisecentrum handicap + studie is currently looking into the matter and expects to publish its findings in August. For the time being, Van Engelshoven does not see a need to free up extra budget for student counselling and support programmes.