Do you often feel tired and reluctant to work? Do you think your life is boring and without focus? Have you ever burst into tears for no specific reason? If you answer yes to any two of the above, you are probably suffering from depression. The Hong Kong government forecast in its Hong Kong Rehabilitation Programme Plan (1998/99 to 2002/03) that about 770,000 people would suffer emotional problems in 2003/2004. The Hospital Authority of Hong Kong announced a 43.2 per cent increase in the number of new patients seeking psychological services for emotional and family problems in 2001/2002 compared with 1997/1998. Stress is one of the main causes of depression. Most Hong Kong people admit they are under stress. A survey on stress and food conducted in 2002 by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), found that 65 per cent of respondents felt life was more stressful that year than the previous year. The survey interviewed 611 working adults aged 18 to 49. It found 80 per cent of the respondents had experienced stress-related symptoms, out of which nearly half had experienced four or more symptoms. Primary school teacher Patricia Lam Kwok-po said she was under a great deal of pressure. 'The workload is getting heavier each year. I always worry that I cannot finish work on time. Work makes me more stressed than ever. I don't know how to solve the problem.' Form Six student Koo Wai-ting also felt pressured. 'School work is killing me. I often dream about school and work at night. I feel so bad about it. I want to have better sleep.' Psychiatrist Wong Chung-kwong said stress was caused by physical and psychological changes, including an increase in the level of the stress hormone cortisol. 'A persistently high level of cortisol can cause depressed moods, tiredness, insomnia and cognitive impairment,' Dr Wong said. 'When stress is not properly relieved, a persistently high level of cortisol may serve as an important factor in the pathogenesis of many illnesses and health problems such as diabetes, impotence, suppression of the immune system and depression.' Kwok Wing-yun, professor of the department of psychiatry at CUHK, said depression involved many factors, including genetics, family, social and psychological issues. Research indicates a close relationship between mental health and suicide, which has been on the rise in Hong Kong, according to figures from The Samaritans' Befrienders. A record 1,152 people committed suicide last year, an increase of 127 cases over 2002. In 1998, more than 71 per cent of youths who committed suicide were found to have suffered from at least one kind of mental illness. Depression and stress also affect the economy. Kenneth Lee Kwing-chin, professor of the School of Pharmacy at CUHK, said: 'If we assume 5 per cent of the population is suffering from depression, it will cost $470.4 million a year for medical treatment and $10.08 billion in lost productivity.'