Three in 100 Hongkongers suffer from depression, government says

Figures show 55 per cent of these sufferers, aged between 16 and 75, did not seek professional help

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 April, 2017, 11:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 April, 2017, 11:23pm

Three out of every 100 Hongkongers aged between 16 and 75 have been found to suffer from depression, the government revealed on World Health Day.

The Centre for Health Protection yesterday painted a worrying picture of the situation, two months before a government-appointed committee is expected to submit a report reviewing the city’s mental health policy.

The centre cited figures from different studies on depression – in line with this year’s health day theme – between 2008 and 2013.

According to the centre, about 3 per cent of those aged between 16 and 75 had at least one episode of depression a week, but about 55 per cent of these sufferers never sought help from any mental health services.

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Director of Health Constance Chan Hon-yee said a committee under the Food and Health Bureau was expected to submit a report in the coming two months.

“Depression is one of the most common causes of suicide,” Chan added. In 2015, at least two people killed themselves every day, with about 40 per cent of them suffering from major depressive disorder.

Studies also found that the elderly were more prone to depression, with one in 10 showing symptoms. About three in 10 of the suicide cases in 2015 involved elderly people.

Frontline psychiatrists urged the government to conduct regular, updated studies and take a serious look at the shortage of resources facing the city’s psychiatric services.

Dr Chan Lap-kei, a member of the Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists, said that psychiatric departments in public hospitals had limited resources, with each doctor seeing about 40 patients on a half-day shift. “How are they expected to treat the patients effectively?” he said.

According to the Hospital Authority, the number of depression patients receiving psychiatric treatment in public hospitals rose 25 per cent to 61,100 in the 2015-2016 period.

Chan also called on the government to conduct regular studies on issues such as depression and suicide rates among different age groups and urged the setting up of an independent department in charge of policy and resources for psychiatric services.

Nick Mok, 35, began suffering from mental health issues in 2014, following his mother’s death, a divorce, and the closure of his clothing business, all of which happened in the same year.

He called a mental health service hotline and is now on a path to recovery after three years of being on medication. “You have to seek professional help when you are depressed,” he said.