Some students who suffer from intense pressure try to relax through unhealthy ways like excessive eating and drinking, a survey has found.
The survey was jointly conducted by the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, Chinese YMCA of Macau and Guangzhou-Hong Kong-Macau Youth Research Institute. It interviewed more than 3,000 secondary and university students from Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Macau on what made them stressed and how they dealt with it.
Most of the respondents said their studies and social relationships were the main reasons for their anxiety.
The other factors included money and social problems, other people's expectations of them and trying to keep fit.
The findings showed there was a relationship between where the students lived and studied and how much pressure they felt.
Most Hong Kong university students said their stress mainly came from their studies. In Guangzhou, money and other people's expectations were cited as the main causes. Macau students mostly worried about money and their studies.
'Hong Kong's competitive education system has long been a main cause of stress for students,' said Shiu Yuen-ling, one of the pollsters from the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong.
'In Guangzhou, many students are their parents' only child. Having spent much money and time nurturing them, their parents often have high expectations of their children.
'That's why many Guangzhou students said others' expectations are a main cause of their stress.'
As for how students cope with the pressure, the findings revealed a similar pattern in the three places.
Despite their geographical differences, the respondents mostly relaxed in a positive way. This included exercising, chatting to friends and seeking counselling from parents and teachers.
However, a small number of students admitted they would try to relax in unhealthy ways like smoking, drinking, over-eating and gambling.
Given the harmful effects of such habits, the pollsters offered several suggestions for students and their parents.
'Young people should strive to develop healthy habits,' said Ms Shiu.
She added that parents in Guangzhou should not make their children so reliant on them, saying those who spent a sheltered childhood found it difficult to cope with the challenges of life.
'They should let their children complete tasks on their own and learn to take responsibility,' she said.