More women suffer mental illness than men

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 September, 2011, 12:00am


Almost one in five Hongkongers show serious symptoms of mental illnesses - and the majority of them are women, a survey has revealed.

The Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists interviewed 1,208 participants in August - 521 males and 687 females. Results show 210 of them, or 17.3 per cent, were considered as having significant levels of neurotic symptoms.

The highest proportion of symptoms pointed to mixed anxiety and depressive order: 7.8 per cent. That was followed by depression and phobic anxiety disorder - an abnormal fear and avoidance of an everyday object or situation - at 5.8 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively. About 3 per cent showed symptoms of more than one psychiatric illness.

More women showed serious symptoms than men: 21.5 per cent did, as compared to 11.9 per cent for males.

Respondents who had poor mental health also reported more chronic physical health issues. The more common problems they suffered were respiratory, cardiac, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal and genitourinary conditions. Due to the challenges they face, many of those with mental health problems do not work: about half of the group with neurotic symptoms were not working.

However, only a minority of them sought help from professionals: only 24.3 per cent had received psychiatric treatment or met with a social worker or clinical psychologist over the past year.

Cheung Tak-hai, vice-chairman of the Alliance for Patients' Mutual Help Organisation, said the study's 17.3 per cent figure could appear alarming as it included anxiety and insomnia as symptoms. Previous studies only took into account those who had been diagnosed with mental illnesses and thereforereported lower figures.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged a surging demand for psychiatric services as the number of patients had grown over the past few years.

'Unemployment and surging property prices add to people's worries,' he said.

The Hospital Authority announced a five-year mental health service plan this year and secured additional funding for related services.

They include the establishment of crisis intervention teams to provide prompt support for high risk mental patients, an expansion of a programme that detects young people with psychosis to cover adults, and an extension of psychogeriatric outreach services.


The percentage of the 1,208 people surveyed who were found to have significant levels of neurotic symptoms