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Health and wellness

One in three young Hongkongers suffers from stress, anxiety or depression, Hong Kong Playground Association survey shows

Despite city’s affluence, young people ‘do not have comfortable lives ... and each bear their own pressure’, social worker says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2018, 7:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2018, 12:20pm

Young people in Hong Kong need more sleep and exercise after a survey found at least a third suffered from stress, anxiety or depression, a social service organisation said on Tuesday.

The survey, conducted by the Hong Kong Playground Association last month, asked 3,177 young people, aged six to 24, questions about their mental health, sleep and exercise habits, and how much time they spent online.

“Young people’s lives in Hong Kong are not easy. They do not have comfortable lives in this affluent society, and they each bear their own pressure,” said Wan Lap-man, a social worker who conducted the survey, adding that heavy workloads faced by students and pupils often got in the way of exercise and sleep.

The survey used the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales, a psychological assessment tool developed by Australia’s University of New South Wales, to measure participants’ stress, anxiety and depression levels.

The survey showed that 31.6 per cent of participants suffered from mild to extremely severe stress, while 38.7 per cent had moderate to extreme anxiety.

Among those surveyed, 30 per cent had moderate to extreme depression.

The proportion of people suffering from severe and extremely severe levels of stress, anxiety and depression was larger in the 19-24 age group.

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For example, 6.6 per cent of children between six and 12 were found to have severe and extremely severe depression, while 17.4 per cent from the 19-24 age group suffered from the affliction.

While the World Health Organisation recommends at least an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise per day for youngsters aged five to 17, the association found that only 4.7 per cent of those surveyed were getting that much physical activity.

In the 19-24 age group, it was found that 38.8 per cent failed to work out for an hour, one day per week, while 21.3 per cent of those aged 13 to 18 were in the same category.

The results echoed a 2017 survey by Chinese University, which found less than half of children aged two to 17 exercised for at least an hour per day, and only about 30 per cent exercised with their families at least once per week.

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The association also said children aged six to 12 were getting 7.9 hours of sleep a day while those aged 13 to 18 were getting seven hours of sleep – both below US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations of nine to 12 hours and eight to 10 hours, respectively.

Young adults aged 19-24 sleep an average 6.8 hours per day.

The survey also found that participants spend an average 18.4 hours online per week.

Using his son, who is in primary school, as an example, Wan said children may have to wake at 6am and use “every minute” on the school bus to nap more. He said his son would be up until 11pm doing homework and studying if he spent time online after school.

“When young people spend more time online, their time spent on exercising and sleep will decrease,” Wan said, adding that while the internet is a valuable source of information for young people, balance is needed.

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To safeguard the mental health of youngsters, Wan said adults should pay more attention to the “basic needs” of young people, which includes sleep, exercise and time to play.