Almost eighty percent of the Dutch population is happy, a fact that places our country firmly in the top 5 happiest countries on earth. However, only 37% of Dutch people are flourishing. Flourishing refers to both happiness and the ability to lead a meaningful life. In her PhD thesis, Marijke Schotanus-Dijkstra was the first in Europe to show that when people are flourishing, the risk of developing mental illnesses becomes smaller. Ms Schotanus-Dijkstra explains: “The Government should be actively involved in promoting mental health and wellbeing and helping people to flourish. This could help to significantly reduce anxiety disorders or depression, for example.”
A long-term population study by NEMESIS-2 of the Trimbos Institute, the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, showed that flourishing people are 53% less likely to develop a new or recurring anxiety disorder three years later and 28% less likely to develop a mood disorder. The PhD candidate explains: “I think that the degree to which someone is flourishing is also more important than simply being happy. We also see this in an American study conducted by Corey Keyes. He has shown that flourishing is not only good for people themselves but also for society, and that investing in wellbeing offers economic advantages.”
In her research, Ms Schotanus-Dijkstra examines the relationship between the degree to which people are flourishing and diagnosed with mental disorders based on two measurements. The study included approximately 5,000 subjects whose ability to flourish was measured between 2010 and 2012. They were subsequently tested for mental disorders between 2013 and 2015. Researchers tested to see if flourishing could predict getting a new or recurring mental disorder three years later. Trained interviewers from NEMESIS-2 held face-to-face interviews in people’s homes.
This is your life
Other research by Marijke Schotanus-Dijkstra has shown that the degree to which a person is flourishing can be improved by taking courses in positive psychology. Ms Schotanus-Dijkstra researched this using the self-help publication ‘This is your life, experience the effects of positive psychology’ by authors Ernst Bohlmeijer and Monique Hulsbergen. According to the researcher, “these types of programmes or self-help books could be used in the future in schools, by employees and in general practice. The possibilities to help Dutch people flourish are endless, which might help to prevent the development of mental disorders.”
The PhD ceremony for Marijke Schotanus-Dijkstra will be held on 14 December in the department of Psychology, Health and Technology (PHT). A copy of her PhD thesis entitled ‘How to Flourish in Everyday Life’ can be obtained from Press Officer Martine van Hillegersberg. Also see the website for the Centre for eHealth and Wellbeing Research. Click here to see Marijke Schotanus-Dijk’s website.