One in three suffer mental illness, survey finds

Survey finds that middle-aged men most at risk of suffering from the stress of life in the city

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

More than one-third of Hongkongers suffer from mental illness, according to a survey by city psychiatrists.

The organisers of the Mental Health Month campaign, who conducted the survey, say the findings suggest that middle-aged, poorly educated, jobless men who are shy and quiet are the most vulnerable when it came to mental health.

One thousand people were randomly selected for telephone interviews in August and September and asked five questions taken from a screening system for depression developed by the World Health Organisation, known as the WHO-5.

Depending on responses a score between 0 to 100 is awarded, with 100 representing full mental health and 50 a pass mark. According to the results, released yesterday, 65 per cent of the 1,000 respondents scored 50 or more, while 35 per cent scored below 50. The overall average score was 56. No margin of error was immediately available.

By age group, those between 15 and 24 appeared to be the healthiest mentally, scoring just over 63 points. And those between 35 years old and 44 years old were on the edge of being mentally unhealthy, with a score of 53. By occupation, students scored the best, with 65 points, while jobless people scored the lowest, with 44 points. Part-time workers scored 59 points, and retirees and housewives 58.

The research did not ask about respondents' sources of mental stress.

Dr Ivan Mak Wing-chit, of the Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists, said the results could reflect the stresses of being part of Hong Kong society.

"That you are not very healthy mentally does not mean you have gone crazy. We believe it shows that full-time workers face huge stress that affects their mental health," Mak said.

"Relations with colleagues could also be a major source of work stress, apart from long working hours. [But] there are many simple and effective ways to ease your stress, like doing more exercise, prioritising your work, chatting with friends."

Dr Ferrick Chu Chung-man, policy and research head at the Equal Opportunities Commission, urged the government to provide more resources for mental health services.

"The average mark of 56 that Hong Kong people score cannot be regarded as high. Sometimes, people do not like to seek professional help because they fear other people will misunderstand that they are crazy," he said.

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, then chief executive, announced in 2009 that district-based integrated community centres for mental wellness would be set up to provide one-stop services ranging from prevention to crisis management. But so far, only seven of the 24 planned centres have opened.

The annual Mental Health Month campaign, jointly organised by welfare agencies, will formally start tomorrow with a ceremony in Victoria Park.