Alcohol consumption among Dutch 11 and 13-year-olds has decreased substantially in the past five years. Dutch kids are also the happiest in both Europe and North America.
This is the conclusion of a major international survey into the health and welfare of children between the age of 11 and 15, the results of which were published on Wednesday.
The survey, entitled Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC), shows that young Dutch teenagers drink less, smoke less cannabis and tobacco and engage less often in unsafe sex than most of their peers in the 39 countries covered by the HBSC report. Just five years ago, they were still among the top ten.
Dutch 15-year-olds are in the middle bracket. Researcher Wilma Vollenbergh from the University of Utrecht explains: “The past few years have seen a growing focus on alcohol consumption among young people. There has been substantial improvement in the level of care provided to children admitted to hospital for acute alcohol poisoning, and parents have become stricter and more alert.”
The outcome of the HBSC survey is surprising because the number of children admitted to hospital with acute alcohol poisoning has been increasing substantially, but paediatrician Nico van der Lely explains that the incidences of excess may increase while the average consumption is decreasing.
Dutch children are, just like five years ago, the happiest of all. About 95 percent of those interviewed give their lives at least a passing grade. “Social factors play an important role in how they look at their lives. Dutch children generally have a good relationship with their parents, family and friends. Another factor is the Netherlands’ prosperity and limited social inequality,” says Vollenbergh.
Dutch children are also quite healthy compared to other European and North American countries. They have fewer ailments and are less often on a diet than most of their peers. They do, on the other hand, spend a lot of time watching TV, drink too much soft drink and do not eat enough fruit. They are in the middle range in terms of exercise and sports.
The HBSC survey is commissioned by the World Health Organisation and conducted every five years. A total of 200,000 children took part in the survey.
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