Reading guide

This web article is based on the Trend Scenario and the Thematic Foresight Studies. The substantiation for the texts, numbers and figures presented here can be found in these documents, unless indicated otherwise. The Trend Scenario and Thematic Foresight Studies show how our public health situation and health care sector will develop over the next 25 years if we pursue our current course and do not take any additional measures. This approach makes it possible to map out the societal challenges for the future.

Key message

Pressure on our day-to-day lives is increasing
Society is facing increasing pressure in various areas. That could lead to stress and health issues. For instance, students experience intensifying pressure to perform. There are also labour market developments which could lead to increased pressure and stress, such as the increasing influence of the 24-hour economy and the continued increase in flexible employment. Especially in the group of people that have to combine work, child care and informal care, many trends that intensify pressure seem to converge. More extensive urbanisation also results in increased pressure and more densely populated neighbourhoods, and can lead to less room for green spaces and water for relaxation and recreation.

Teenagers and young adults are feeling increasing levels of pressure to perform

There are various developments which will cause increased pressure on our daily lives. This could lead to increased stress and related health problems. School and university students experience intensifying pressure to perform. Student psychologists have indicated that they see more and more students suffering from increasingly serious and complex symptoms, resulting in more teenagers and young adults in need of referral to the GP or mental health care professionals. Many students also use Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder medication without having the required prescription from a GP or specialist. They use these substances to be able to concentrate better and for a longer time. Almost half of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 indicate that they feel tired or exhausted, and approximately one in five feel anxious or stressed. At the same time, over 80% indicate that they feel happy and cheerful (see figure).

Indicator(s) used: Various positive and negative emotions as perceived by young people (age 18 to 25). 
Source(s) used:  Annual Report Youth Monitor 2017 Statistics Netherlands (CBS). 

Using social media can also increase pressure on young people. It can lead to a feeling of anxiety about not keeping up with things (FOMO, fear of missing out), and make them want to live up to the ideal picture created by selectively sharing highlights. That could cause pressure and stress, in some cases resulting in psychological problems such as anxiety, depression and difficulty sleeping. The increased mental pressure on young people and young adults could have consequences for their mental health, and could for instance lead to an increased frequency of burn-outs in this age group.

Combining work, care and learning under pressure

There are also various developments in the labour market which could lead to increased pressure and stress. The increasing influence of the 24-hour economy can give employees the feeling that they need to be available 24/7 – and the increased presence of smart phones and other ICT devices means that they actually can be. More flexible employment does have positive effects on autonomy and self-management, but it also goes hand in hand with a lack of job and income security, resulting in negative effects on mental health. The same applies to robot automation. Another trend in the job market is increasing digitisation in every respect. This requires different competencies from employees, which also change rapidly. This makes lifelong learning a crucial necessity. For some groups, such as less skilled workers, older people, flex workers and people in poor health, it will be difficult to meet these demands. Even people who are able to keep up with this trend will also have to deal with increased pressure on daily life due to lifelong learning. 

Especially in the group that has to combine work, child care and informal care, many trends that intensify pressure seem to converge. In addition to the trends in the labour market described above, there is an increasing demand for informal care. This is because the number of older people is increasing due to the ageing population, while the generation comprising the children of these parents is growing proportionately smaller. This means that there will be fewer children who can take care of the elderly in future. In addition, more and more older people are living independently and/or alone (see web article: ‘Impact of the ageing population’

More and more people live in busy cities

Three-quarters of the total population growth up to 2040 will take place in the big and medium-sized municipalities in the Randstad urban conglomeration. Since the number of people who want to live in the city will increase, buildings that are currently left empty or used for other purposes, such as churches or offices, will be repurposed for use as housing. Residential density will increase as a result. These trends will lead to a steady increase in how busy the cities are.

Busier environments and more noise pollution leads to more stress and mental fatigue, and to more disease. More intensive use of the cities also represents a threat to the room still available for greenery and water. These green and blue spaces can have a positive effect on health. Relaxation and recreation in green spaces and in close proximity to water can reduce chronic stress and concentration problems. More parks and waterways in the living environment also promote opportunities for interaction, thus facilitating social cohesion. Continuing urbanisation also has positive aspects. It ensures further concentration of economic activity, resulting in more support for public facilities and the introduction of such innovations as electric transport, separated waste collection, and recycling.