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Health of young people in Utrecht

Here we share an overview of the health of Utrecht’s young people and which factors have an influence on it. We provide information that can help everyone who is working with and for young people. In addition, this may help to put issues on the agenda and therefore help to improve the health of Utrecht’s young people.

Just like Utrecht’s children, we see health as a broad concept, encompassing not only physical health, but also how you are feeling, your quality of life and your ability to participate. Moreover, there are certain factors that influence health, such as health literacy and the social and physical environment in which a child grows up.

The information on this page draws on various data sources, such as large-scale, representative surveys, data registrations and numerous conversations with professionals and residents. We use the term 'young people' to refer to children aged 0-18, 'children' are those aged 0-12 and 'youngsters' are those aged 13-18.


There are nearly 70,000 children and young people under the age of 18 living in Utrecht. With the expected growth of the city, this number will rise to about 84,000 by 2040. This will also mean a greater demand on public spaces, education, leisure facilities and healthcare.

In general, Utrecht’s young people are doing well: 9 in 10 children and 8 in 10 young people feel healthy. Young people are also positive about their relationship with their parents. Children are more likely to have a positive self-image than a few years ago and bullying has decreased significantly.

This page focuses on the groups and issues that require extra attention, such as young people growing up in poverty and young people growing up in single-parent or co-parenting families. Of particular note are falling vaccination rates, increased fear of failure, concerns of professionals about (performance) pressure, homophobia and the oral health of Utrecht’s young people.

Age structure and population growth of Utrecht’s young people

20% of the population in Utrecht are aged between 0-18. This are nearly 70,000 children and teenagers. In Amsterdam (17%) and Rotterdam (19%) there are relatively fewer young people aged 0-18, in The Hague (21%) there are more.

Utrecht is growing strongly

We expect the number of young people aged 0-18 to increase by 14,000 to about 84,000 by 2040. This increase in growth is relatively strongest among young people aged 12-17.
This increase has consequences for the use of public spaces (such as play areas and being able to cycle to school) and among others education, leisure facilities and healthcare. 

Diversity among Utrecht’s young people and families

Utrecht is a very diverse city. Its Inhabitants have different backgrounds and live in different types of families. A person has a migration background, if this person and/or at least one of the parents was not born in the Netherlands.

Babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers (0-6 years)

92% to 94.5% of children aged 0 to 5 in Utrecht are vaccinated. The percentage differs per disease against which a vaccination is used. Over the past two years, the percentage of vaccinated children across all age groups in Utrecht has decreased. A high vaccination rate is important to protect children from infectious diseases such as measles and polio. This decline could already be seen nationwide and in other cities.

Health inequalities develop at an early age. This can be seen, for example, in the percentage of obese children according to their parents' level of education. These inequalities increase as these children get older.

21% of Utrecht's preschool children have been referred by the Youth Health Care Department for early intervention to reduce their (risk of) language delay. 89% of them have used this referral.

Children (10-12 years)

90% of Utrecht’s children perceive their health as good. Children without a migration background and children from higher family affluence are more likely to report perceiving their health as good. Family affluence is determined on the basis of six questions to the children about possessions and financial possibilities within the family.

92% of the children are positive about their relationship with their parents. However, 18% of the children are experiencing one or more problems at home: for example, a lot of arguments or they often find home to be an unwelcoming place. This is more likely the case for families with a low level of affluence, co-parenting families and for children from other non-Western backgrounds (not including Turkish and Moroccan).

10% of the children have a parent, brother or sister with a chronic illness or an addiction. These children are less likely to perceive their health as good and are more likely to have an increased risk of mental health problems.
The percentage of children with positive self-esteem (happy with/proud of themselves) has risen from 80% in 2007 to 88% in 2017. Children with a Moroccan background are more likely than average to have positive self-esteem. Children in single-parent families are less likely to have a positive self-esteem.

Bullying in primary schools has decreased sharply from 27% in 2007 to 16% in 2013. In 2017, 14% of the children reported being bullied.

The percentage of children with a fear of failure (afraid that they will fail at something) has risen from 10% in 2009 to 14% in 2017. Children in families with a low standard of living are more likely to have a fear of failure.

In the past year, 22% of the children had a cavity that needed to be filled. This percentage was higher in children with a Turkish (35%) or Moroccan (37%) background. Professionals indicate that Turkish and Moroccan children are eating a lot more sugar and also eat more often during the day. This is bad for their teeth.
  • 72% of children like going to school.
  • 82% of children feel safe in the outdoor play areas in their neighbourhood.
  • 84% are members of a sports club.
  • 76% like their own neighbourhood.

Youngsters (13-18 years)

81% of youngsters perceive their health as good. Two years earlier, this was 85%. This decrease is mainly seen in girls with a migration background.

80% of youngster rate their communication with their parents with a score of 8 or more. Youngsters with a Turkish or Moroccan background are more likely to say this.

After years in which 8% of youngsters had an increased risk of mental health problems, this has now risen to 10%. VMBO and HAVO students without a migration background are more likely to be at an increased risk of mental health problems.

Professionals are observing an increased (performance pressure) among youngsters, often triggered by social media. Youngsters feel they always need to be contactable and mirror the behaviour of others. Youngsters also have to do well at school, have part-time jobs and maintain a busy social life. Professionals cite this pressure as a possible explanation of the reduction in self-perceived health.
"To the outside world everything must seem perfect; if someone has new shoes, then you must have them too. Everyone sees what you're up to through Facebook and Instagram."

13% of youngsters reported not being able to stop using their phone, the internet, or their gaming in time for them to get enough sleep.

VMBO pupils with a migration background are more likely to think that gay pupils at school cannot be open about their sexual orientation, not even to friends.

18% of youngsters reported sometimes feeling unsafe in the evening and at night.

During the 2016/2017 academic year, there were 1,679 reports of unauthorised school absenteeism from regular secondary education. In general, these are youngsters who are absent from school for at least 16 hours in a period of 4 weeks.

The percentage of teenage girls who were vaccinated against cervical cancer (HPV-virus) dropped 9% from 58% in 2016 to 49% in 2017. Nationwide, this percentage decreased by 7% to 46%.

Growing up in families

87% of Utrecht’s parents do not feel burdened, or only slightly burdened, by parenthood. A positive experience of parenthood has a positive influence on parenting behaviour and the wellbeing of children.

Youngsters and parents in single-parent families are less likely to perceive their health as good.

9,500 children are growing up in low-income families. The household has 130% of the statutory minimum income or less. The figure has dropped barely in recent years. Growing up in poverty has a negative effect on children. For example, they are more likely to experience tension at home, feel left out more often and are more likely to perform poorly at school.

About a third of Utrecht’s parents with a Moroccan, Turkish or other non-Western background have difficulty understanding written health information.  This is based on data from a written questionnaire. The actual percentage of parents who have difficulty understanding written health information is expected to be higher.

10% of children occasionally accompany their parents on visits to the GP or other appointments in order to assist them. Children with a Moroccan background and children from families with a low level of affluence do this more often.

Community teams (for youth and family)have been in touch with 8,100 families in 2017. This equates to 17% of all the families in Utrecht. Families can contact these teams for help with complicated questions for example about parenting, divorce, domestic violence, mental health problems and debt.

I couldn’t sleep at night. I kept thinking, I only have two euros left, how am I going to feed my children for the rest of the month?

More information

Would you like more information about the health of Utrecht’s young people? For example about issues that have not been highlighted on this page or information about how we collected the data. Please contact us. We can also share information about the health of adults in Utrecht.