Study Buddy (Challenger): Growing number of young people in China speaking about battle with social phobia

  • This page is for students who want to take their reading comprehension to the next level with difficult vocabulary and questions that will test their inference skills
  • Check your understanding of the text using the questions below or in the linked Kahoot! game
YP |

Latest Articles

Kongkee visual artist adds local colour to sci-fi representation of Hong Kong

The Lens: Netflix password crackdown expands to more than 100 countries

Identify and break free of thinking traps with tips from a Hong Kong educator

One psychologist attributes the rise in social anxiety symptoms in Chinese youth to wider social media usage. Photo: Shutterstock

Content provided by British Council

Read the following text, and answer questions 1-9 below:

[1] If a tiger is going to bite you, will you ask for help? A popular answer in the Chinese online community goes: “No, I won’t. I may just die if no one helps me. But if someone does, I’ll need to say ‘hi’.” The joke is from female comedian Niao Niao who became famous largely by making fun of social phobia, a problem plaguing a growing number of Chinese youth.

[2] The term “social phobia”, shortened as she-kong in Mandarin, has become an online buzzword in recent years as more young people say they’re afraid of socialising in the real world. About 80 per cent of Chinese university students believe they have mild symptoms of social phobia, or social anxiety disorder, based on a survey of more than 4,800 students by the China Youth Daily last November. About seven per cent said they had serious symptoms, the survey found.

[3] The survey was based on self-perception, but a medical study published in 2020 in scientific journal PLOS One also suggested the rates of social anxiety symptoms among young people were increasing in seven countries, including China. The study found that in China, 32 per cent of people aged 16 to 29 years met the medical threshold for social phobia.

[4] Huang Jing, a psychologist based in Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, said wider social media usage and improved digital connectivity were major reasons for increased social anxiety. “It’s a global issue as social media dominates our daily life, but I think its influence on China, especially teenagers and young adults, is bigger than many other parts of the world. They are overly reliant on non face-to-face communication,” she said.

[5] Another reason, specific to China, is that many young adults, born in the era of China’s one-child policy, grew up alone. As a result of being the only child in the family, they were overly protected by parents and grandparents, said Ji Longmei, a senior psychological consultant at Shanghai Soul Garden Mental Health Counselling Centre.

[6] “They have no siblings to play with at home ... they’re facing higher expectations from the family in terms of academic achievement amid fierce educational competition, and therefore spend most of their time after school studying,” she said. “As the mother of one of my young clients’ said about her son, he’s now a PhD but isn’t able to work or date a woman because of social phobia ... [He can] do nothing but study. She takes care of everything else, including tying his shoelaces.”

[7] But Ji believed the phrase was misused among people online. “Not all people who label themselves as having social phobia really have this problem. In many cases, they’re just using it as an excuse to refuse to participate in certain events,” she said.

[8] Ji said that she-kong becoming a buzzword was a positive sign of increased public awareness about mental health. “A decade or two ago, no one suffering from depression would say publicly that they had this problem because they found it shameful. But today, it’s widely accepted, and no one feels it is something to be ashamed of – the same is true with social phobia.”

Source: South China Morning Post, April 5


Play a Kahoot! game about this story as a class or with your friends by clicking on the link here.

Or play on your own below to test your understanding:

1. What is the response in paragraph 1 used to illustrate?
A. the growing number of Chinese people who are discussing social phobia online
B. how the Chinese online community dismisses social phobia
C. ways to interact with teens who might be displaying symptoms of social phobia
D. all of the above

2. How does the medical study in paragraph 3 help validate the results of the survey revealed by the China Youth Daily?

3. What are the three factors that the psychological experts listed in the text for increased social anxiety in Chinese youth? (3 marks)

4. According to paragraph 4, what does Huang Jing believe young adults in China lack?

5. How does emphasis on school performance contribute to social anxiety according to paragraph 6?

6. Why does Ji Longmei bring up the example of her client’s son in paragraph 6?
A. to illustrate the extent how of undiagnosed social anxiety can affect a person’s day-to-day life
B. to show how one’s social skills are intricately linked to academic success
C. to demonstrate how being an only child while facing academic pressure can be detrimental to mental health
D. all of the above

7. What does the “phrase” in paragraph 7 refer to?

8. According to paragraph 7, how might some people abuse the label “social anxiety disorder”?

9. Decide if the following statements are True, False or Not Given in the text. (4 marks)
(i) Male teenagers are more prone to suffering from social anxiety disorder compared to their female counterparts.
(ii) The findings published in PLOS One revealed that the spike in teens with social anxiety disorder is not an issue unique to China.
(iii) Huang believes that effective parent-child communication is key to tackling social anxiety in China’s young people.
(iv) Ji is worried that normalising social phobia will exacerbate the problem.

Social phobia among younger Chinese is a growing problem, say experts. Photo: Getty Images


1. A
2. The China Youth Daily survey is based on respondents’ self-perception, but the medical study provides evidence to show social anxiety symptoms were increasing in China.
3. wider social media usage, improved digital connectivity, China’s one-child policy
4. face-to-face communication
5. Teens spend most of their time after school studying alone, resulting in them being more prone to suffering from social anxiety.
6. C
7. social anxiety / social phobia (any one)
8. by using it as an excuse to not participate in certain events
9. (i) NG; (ii) T; (iii) F; (iv) F

Sign up for the YP Teachers Newsletter
Get updates for teachers sent directly to your inbox
By registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy