According to the international WHO/HBSC report, Dutch youngsters aged under 15 no longer top the list internationally for alcohol use. The report contains the results of research on health and wellbeing of juveniles in Europe, the United States and Canada.
According to Professor Wilma Vollebergh of Utrecht, the major public concerns about underage drinking in recent years have clearly borne fruit. Parents have become more vigilant. The reduction in alcohol use is particularly noticeable in the youngest age groups (11 and 13 years). The improvement is less marked among 15 year olds: this remains a challenge for the coming years.
200,000 adolescents aged 11, 13 and 15 from 39 countries participated in the study. Questions in the survey related to issues such as how happy and healthy the respondents were , how they experience their relationship with their parents and peers, and how they feel about school. The study also examined the health behaviour of the children. The organisations participating on behalf of the Netherlands are the University of Utrecht, the Trimbos Institute and the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP). In 2009/10 the Netherlands participated for the third time in this four-yearly study.
Dutch youngsters have the highest level of wellbeing
The findings show that once again, Dutch adolescents are the happiest in Europe. Dutch youngsters also report positive and supportive relationships with their parents and classmates. They have lots of friends, and compared to children in other countries, they experience little bullying or fighting. They find school enjoyable. Dutch children also experience the least amount of schoolwork-related stress. According to Prof. Vollebergh, the social culture of the Netherlands facilitates openness between parents and children; children feel safe, and the same applies to their relationships with their peers. And performance-related pressure is not as high as elsewhere.
Declining trend in alcohol use
The WHO/HBSC-study found that in 2009/10 Dutch youngsters had moved down the rankings for alcohol use in Europe. This trend was particularly marked in the younger age groups (11 and 13 year olds), who show less frequency of alcohol use and the lowest frequency of drunkenness. The researchers assume there is a link with the successful prevention and intervention programmes of recent years that have targeted alcohol use among youngsters under the age of 16 as well as their parents. According to Professor Vollebergh, it seems that parents have got the new message 'no alcohol before the age of 16' and have become more vigilant with their children around alcohol. Parents have become stricter in this respect, as can be seen among kids aged 11 and 13. They go out with friends less often; they hardly smoke; and they are using less alcohol. "Now for the older age groups", she says.
Dutch youngsters claim to have a healthy lifestyle. They eat breakfast more regularly than in any other country. According to Vollebergh, it appears to be a tradition among Dutch families to start the day together with breakfast. This is important socially, too. Other health behaviours are also positive. Dutch youngsters report few health complaints and are less prone to dieting. On the other hand, they spend relatively more time watching TV, they consume more soft drinks, don't eat as much fruit, and occupy a mid-range position for engaging in sport and physical activity.
Click here for the HBSC report.
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