Overworking and social media are public health problems in Hong Kong. Better social bonds are the cure
Padmore Amoah says a lack of social bonds among Hongkongers adds to public health problems – but we can address this within our communities
While modern economic and workplace structures plus advancements in technology may help address inequality, they are also increasing our social distance from each other. The demands of our jobs now extend beyond our places of work. In first-world countries, these pressures extend to homes, to the detriment of social lives. In line with the dictates of current economic and technological changes, we rely more on our electronic devices than personal interactions to stay connected with families, friends and neighbours. Hongkongers fit this pattern well.
This is understandable, considering ever-rising living costs and the insistence on personal and professional accomplishments. Nonetheless, we must strive to prioritise our social lives, not only to be regarded as friendly or warm, but because of the benefits to our health and well-being. Global research mostly agrees that social interactions stimulate the body’s immune system to prevent and fend off illnesses. Hence, medical professionals strongly advocate the involvement of families and friends in the management of ailments, particularly chronic ones.
Social bonds with family, friends and even neighbours serve as conduits to receive and send critical information and knowledge that is difficult to obtain otherwise. Moreover, a willingness to seek the well-being of our loved ones alerts us to health-related decisions and behaviours. For example, parents strive to stay healthy for the sake of their children.
A recent study conducted in Ghana showed that such social elements shape one’s decisions, willingness and even ability to use needed health care promptly. For policymakers, encouraging vibrant social engagements may be necessary to enhance the ability of individuals and even groups to access, understand and apply health information correctly.
Therefore, local governments in Hong Kong (including district councils and committees) must seek to live by their objective of strengthening and tapping into the community spirit in neighbourhoods for development. Organising and encouraging people to participate in activities like volunteer work, recreational events, and cultural and sporting competitions, must be intensified to meet institutional goals and for their health benefits. Individually, it is time we got involved in family activities; say “hello” to our neighbours, knock on their doors if we must, and engage in discussions about matters of common interest. Perhaps we can meet our daily demands better with a friendly heart.
Padmore A. Amoah is a research assistant professor in the Division of Graduate Studies, and the Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies, at Lingnan University, Hong Kong