The Netherlands - Demographics

The Netherlands is a small country with 12 provinces in North West Europe and 3 islands in the Caribbean, collectively known as the Dutch Caribbean. The Netherlands has about 16.9 million inhabitants in 2015 of which 49.5% male and 50.5% female. 21.1% of the population is immigrant, both first and second degree, and 56% of this group has a non-western background (Statline CBS).

The Netherlands is the most densely populated country in Europe with a population density of 408 persons per km2. Among citizens in the Netherlands the age is distributed as follows:

  • 23.1% of the population is 0-19 years old;
  • 24.6% of the population is 20-39 years old;
  • 35.5% of the population is 40-64 years old;
  • 12.6% of the population is 65-79 years old;
  • 4.2% of the populations is 80+ years old.


Today’s life expectancy at birth of men is 79.1 year, and of women 82.8 year (Statline CBS). In the 1970’s this life expectancy was 70.8 year for men and 76.5 year for women. When comparing the life expectancy with education level, there is a difference of approximately 6y between citizens with the lowest level of education versus the highest level, respectively for men 75.3 year and 81.8 year and for women 80.0 year and 86.1 year.

Our lifestyle, including diet, smoking, alcohol and physical activity, has great influence on the morbidity, mortality and life expectancy of citizens. For instance 31.3% of the Dutch citizens has moderate overweight and 10.2% has severe overweight. Again a relation can be seen with the level of education. Of the low educated citizens 60.6% are overweight compared with 37.3% of the citizens with a high education. Furthermore 23.3% of the Dutch citizens are smoking, of which 26.2% are men and 20.5% are women. With respect to alcohol abuse, 31.2% of the Dutch citizens are excessive drinkers, of which 24.9% are men and 17.6% are women.

In the Netherlands, most deaths are related to cancer (32%) followed by heart and vascular diseases (28.1%). Specifically lung cancer and coronary heart diseases are the most important causes of death in 2011. Though deaths due to heart and vascular diseases have decreased in the period 1980-2011, from 44.8% to 28.1%. This decrease is highest in the Netherlands compared with other European Union countries and has a close relationship with the improved care for people with acute myocardial infarction and stroke and better long term survival for cancer.

Physical Inactivity

Physical inactivity is related to some chronic diseases, for example it is related to 21% of the incidence of a stroke 20% of the incidence of a myocard infarct and 10% of diabetes (Nationaal Kompas Volksgezondheid, 2014; In ’t Panhuis-Plasmans et al., 2012). Almost one in three Dutch citizens (5.3 million) has a chronic disease, and 1.9 million Dutch citizens (11%) has more than one chronic disease. Women have more often multi-morbidity and this is also the case for elderly and citizens with a lower education level. The Dutch percentage of chronic diseases is comparable with the average of the European Union (Nationaal Kompas Volksgezondheid, 2014).

Being physical inactive is related to 6% (8.000) of all deaths in the Netherlands. The average life expectancy of all 40 year old Dutch citizens would increase by 0.7 year of which 0.3 year would be in full health (van Kreijl et al., 2004), if they would become more physical active. The contribution to morbidity due to physical inactivity is comparable with eating too little vegetables and fruit and too much saturated fat in the diet (Nationaal Kompas Volksgezondheid, 2014).

Physical Activity

Of the Dutch citizens, the ones 12 year and older, approximately 58% meet the Dutch Physical Activity Norm (being moderately physically active for at least half an hour a day, 5 days a week), adjusted to age group. Less than 10% of the reported citizens in the age of 18+ were physically inactive at any day of the week. Of the youth, age 12-16 years old, only 22% met the Dutch Physical Activity Norm for youth in 2011. A difference could be seen between boys (19%) and girls (25%) (Statline, CBS).

The difference between youth and adults who meet the physical activity norm is mainly due to the different norms, as these norms are adjusted to age category. Even though less youth is meeting the PA norms, youth is more active compared to adults. They use more often the bike or go by foot from one place to the other and they spend more time on sport, playing outside and recreation (Nationaal Kompas Volksgezondheid, 2014).

The criteria for a sedentary lifestyle, spending less than 2 hour on the computer or behind the TV during leisure time, exists only for youth 4-17 years. 57% met this criteria in the age group 4-11 year. Youth between 12-17 years old, show sedentary behavior of 3.5 hour a day on average after schools (Hendriksen, Bernaards, Hildebrandt & Hofstetter, 2013).



    CBS Statistics Netherlands. Statline. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
    Garssen, J., Nicolaas, H. & Sprangers, A. (2005). Demografie van de allochtonen in Nederland Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek. Retrieved 2 july 2011.
    Government. Coalition Agreement. Central government (2012) Retrieved 3 April 2013
    Hämäläinen, R.M., Villa, T. & The REPOPA Consortium (2013). Evidence-informed policy making to enhance physical activity in six European Countries: WP 1: Internal reporting for REPOPA Consortium.
    Hendriksen, I., Bernaards, C., Hildebrandt, V. & Hofstetter, H. (2013). Lichamelijke inactiviteit en sedentair gedrag in Nederland 2000-2011. In:
Trendrapport Bewegen en Gezondheid 2010/2011. Leiden: TNO, 2013.
    In ’t Panhuis-Plasmans, M., Luijben, G. & Hoogenveen, R. (2012) Zorgkosten van ongezond gedrag. Kosten van ziekten notities 2012-2. RIVM, 2012.
    Kreijl van, C.F., Knaap, A.G.A.C., Busch, M.C.M., Havelaar, A.H., Kramers, P.G.N., Kromhout, D., Leeuwen van, F.X.R. et al. (2004). Ons eten gemeten. Gezonde voeding en veilig voedsel in Nederland. RIVM-rapport nr. 270555007. Houten: Bohn Stafleu Van Loghum
    Loket gezond leven, Bilthoven: RIVM, versie 2.29 Retrieved 2012.
    Rijksinstituut voor volksgezondheid en milieu. Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport.
Nationaal Kompas Volksgezondheid. Retrieved February 2014.
    Rijksoverheid. Gezondheid Dichtbij.
Landelijke nota gezondheidsbeleid; mei 2011

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