Unhappy and lonely: Young people in Belgium struggle with mental health

Unhappy and lonely: Young people in Belgium struggle with mental health
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Happiness decreased among young people in the last three months of 2021, according to a quarterly survey by the Belgian national statistics office Statbel on well-being and living conditions in Belgium.

The survey also shows that 16–24-year-olds felt more alone than in the previous three months.

The study was conducted among a sample of 5,000 people aged 16 to 74. And although the results for young people make for sorry reading, about two-thirds of respondents still or most of the time felt happy in the month preceding the survey.

Among 16–24-year-olds, the feeling of happiness dropped in the period from July to September (22.7%) to the end of the year (only 12.2% said they still felt happy between October to December).


Where loneliness weighed mostly on seniors in summer, young people also reported comparable feelings of isolation at the end of the year (12.1% of 65–74-year-olds and 12.7% of 16–24-year-olds).

Among the general population, 8.3% of Belgians felt always or mostly alone at the end of the year, while one in three Belgians never experienced this feeling (34.3%).

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For clinical psychologist and VUB professor Elke Van Hoof, several factors are likely at play. The results could, in part, be down to seasonal affective disorder, in which people develop depressive symptoms in the depths of winter.

In addition, the effects of the health measures brought in due to the coronavirus pandemic cannot be overlooked: “The sense of belonging is very important for young people, but this disappeared as events and other activities were cancelled during the pandemic,” van Hoof concludes.

“Only this year can we return to a normalisation of the sense of belonging.”

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