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Health and wellness

Mental health in Hong Kong at worst level in seven years, with almost half scoring ‘below passing mark’, annual survey says

  • Work stress and poor social sentiment cited, but researchers note past methodology might have underestimated grimness of situation
  • This year’s poll reveals those who were older, married, have a family or children to take care of tended to have better mental health
PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 9:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 10:53pm

Hongkongers’ mental health has deteriorated to its worst level in seven years, with almost half scoring “below a passing mark”, according to an annual survey released on Monday.

While partially attributing the grim result to work stress and poor social sentiment, the researchers conceded their previous surveys might have underestimated the situation having carried out their study during daytime hours when many people could have been out at work.

This year’s poll, conducted from June 12 to 29, involved phone interviews with 1,007 people aged at least 15. Calls were placed in the evening.

Adopting the WHO (Five) Well-Being Index, the poll asked respondents to state how often they felt cheerful and in good spirits during the previous fortnight. They were asked to rate statements such as “I have felt calm and relaxed” and “my daily life has been filled with things that interest me” on a scale of zero to five, with five denoting “all of the time” and zero “at no time”.

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A score of 100 meant the best possible quality of life, and 52 was the passing mark.

The average score of the respondents this year was 50.2, down from 59.75 in 2017. It was the worst showing since the survey was launched in 2012. It was also the first time the average score had dropped below the passing mark.

There has been a lot of social hostility
Dr Ivan Mak Wing-chit, research convenor

In 2012, the average score for respondents in Hong Kong was 56.25.

Research convenor Dr Ivan Mak Wing-chit said the new methodology of contacting respondents at night “might have contributed to the significant drop in score”.

“But it is fair to say Hongkongers’ mental well-being has not improved and may have worsened in recent years.”

The psychiatrist believed political tension in society was partially to blame, saying: “There has been a lot of social hostility.”

This year, some 48 per cent of the respondents scored below 52. Another 38 per cent notched between 52 and 68, indicating their mental well-being was “at an acceptable level”, while 14.1 per cent scored 72 or higher, meaning they experienced good mental health.

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In general, those who were older, married, had a family or children to take care of tended to record better mental health. Looking at age groups, those between 25 and 34 had the worst mental health, scoring 46.49.

And those working at a managerial level generally had better mental well-being than frontline staff or those working in manual labour, scoring 52.81 and 43.33 respectively, according to the poll.

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For the 49 per cent of respondents who had full-time jobs, their average number of work hours was 9.14 per day. Some 18.4 per cent said they worked more than 10 hours daily.

The survey formed part of a government-led campaign aimed at boosting public awareness of mental health.