More than 60 per cent of Hongkongers suffer from anxiety, with the problem more prevalent among the less well-off, according to two recent surveys.
A survey conducted in May and June by the social service division of the Church of United Brethren in Christ found more than 43 per cent of people earning less than HK$5,000 a month faced serious pressure from work, while the figure dropped to 16 per cent for those earning more than HK$30,000.
The study, for which 1,714 working parents of primary school students were interviewed, found 67.8 per cent had experienced anger, fear and anxiety at work.
In a separate survey, conducted by the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong, 64 per cent of those interviewed showed at least one symptom of generalised anxiety disorder in the past six months. About 10 per cent reported six or more symptoms of anxiety, which included difficulty concentrating, insomnia, restlessness and muscle tension. The survey surveyed 1,641 people aged nine to 83 late last month.
Lee Sing, director of the Hong Kong Mood Disorders Centre, said anxiety could develop into depression and other mental disorders if appropriate treatment was not given. 'In Hong Kong, not enough attention is being paid to mental health of the people. But the cost of it could be high,' he said.
In the association's survey, only 13 per cent of those interviewed had consulted specialists to tackle anxiety. About a quarter of those with anxiety said they had not made any attempt to alleviate the problem.
Lui Yu-hung, children and family team leader of the church's social service division, said work pressure was a major cause of anxiety and could directly affect family relations.
In the church's survey, 62 per cent of respondents said they tended to talk less with their spouses if they had serious work pressure, while the same proportion tended to be bad listeners when under pressure.
'People are worried that they could lose their job or have their pay reduced at any point,' Ms Lui said.
The government should pay attention to low-income families instead of waiting for them to develop domestic violence, she said, and companies should be encouraged to introduce family-friendly policies.
The association's survey found some people relied heavily on tranquillisers or sleeping pills to relieve stress. Dr Lee said this could result in addiction and there were safer, more affordable drugs for treating anxiety.