• Amba Brown

Why Dutch teenagers are among the happiest in the world

Updated: May 9, 2019


Teens in Netherlands regularly top life satisfaction tables, with schooling playing a big role.

In a biology class at a secondary school near Rotterdam, Gerrit the skeleton is not the only one with a permanent grin.

The Groen van Prinstererlyceum, which first trialled happiness lessons a decade ago, teaches some of the least troubled teens in the world.

In report after report, the Netherlands tops OECD countries for high life satisfaction among its young people. Researchers compiling this year’s Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study, a four-yearly analysis on 48 countries, say Dutch children’s happiness scores are up again.

It contrasts starkly with the picture in countries like Britain, where depression and anxiety are on the rise among teenagers, and the US, where the number of young people taking their own lives has risen sharply.

So why is this flat, damp country of 17 million people with its history of Calvinism and colonialism so good at giving young people an optimistic outlook?

Dr Simone de Roos, a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP), says initial findings from the 90-question HBSC survey of a representative 7,000 teenagers, to be published later this year, suggest life satisfaction has risen since 2013.

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