FREEDOM AND SAFETY
Exam pressures, the quest for more independence, strained relationships with parents and a body full of raging hormones all add to teenage angst. Of course not all teenagers have the same experience of these formative years, and where they live has a huge influence on an important time of their lives.
If all teenagers could choose where to grow up, the Netherlands would be a good pick. Young people there are highly likely to have a positive experience of their teenage years.
They are, on average, likely to be among the happiest, healthiest, best educated and wealthiest of adolescents living in the world’s richest nations.
Earlier this year, an OECD report found that over 93% of children aged 11 to 15 years old in the Netherlands recorded above average life satisfaction.
And subsequent reports by UNICEF have listed the Netherlands as one of the best places in the world for children and teenagers to live.
When UNICEF assessed the well-being of children and teenagers in OECD nations in 2013, the Netherlands came top overall. It also topped the individual categories for material well-being, educational well-being, and for behaviours and risks.
Dutch teenagers are among the least likely to engage in risky behaviour, including getting pregnant and drinking alcohol.
A subsequent UNICEF report in 2017 found that teenage girls in the Netherlands were the least likely in the world to experience violence.
And reports published last year by UNICEF and the World Health Organization found that the Netherlands has the lowest obesity rates among rich nations.
Dutch teenagers’ health and happiness appears to reflect the health and happiness of the Dutch population overall.
This year, once again, the Netherlands ranked in the top 10 of the Global Happiness Index.
In a world where mental health problems are on the rise, the Netherlands remains one of the OECD nations with the lowest use of antidepressants per capita.
Perhaps the secret to widespread happiness in the Netherlands, and the happiness of its teenagers in particular, is the country’s work-life balance.
This year’s OECD Better Life Index found that the Dutch have the best work-life balance of any developed nation.
Only 0.5% of Dutch employees regularly work very long hours, which is the lowest rate in the OECD, where the average is 13%. Overall, they work an average of just 30.3 hours per week, well below the EU average of 40.3 hours per week.
Instead, they devote around 16 hours per day to eating, sleeping and leisurely pursuits.
The Dutch also spend time together as families, which is reflected in the strength of the relationships teenagers in the Netherlands have with their parents.
Among European teenagers, research by the World Health Organization found 15-year-olds in the Netherlands find it easiest to talk to their parents.