Almost 80 percent of children living in subdivided flats or similar conditions have problems with their spines, according to a study jointly conducted by the The Society for Community Organisation and Hong Kong Chiropractic College Foundation.

The two groups interviewed 142 children living in subdivided flats, cubicle apartments or rooftops from October 2015 to February 2016, Apple Daily reported. It was found that 79.6 percent of these children faced potential problems concerning spine development, with living conditions playing a role in 97 percent of these cases, and 83.8 percent of the interviewees also lacked knowledge relating to spinal health.

Around 80 percent of the interviewees did not have a desk at home and about 30 percent said they studied on the bed. Over 60 percent also said that they did not like their living conditions.

spinal health
A girl crouched on the floor, doing her homework.

The study also found that there were around 40,000 children who faced such living conditions last year, up from around 30,000 two years ago. The total number of people living in these residences has also gone up to 190,000 from 170,000 in 2013.

Cherry, a 15-year-old girl who was interviewed, said that she was used to doing her homework while sitting on the floor. “I do it for several hours and when I’m tired I crouch on the floor, and it makes my back hurt.” She also said that she would be criticised for not standing straight when practising the flute at school and expressed hopes that the situation would improve when she could move to a public housing estate, Oriental Daily reported.

Chiropractic doctor Chu Ming-him said that living conditions, intake of nutrition and education could all affect spinal health, with environmental factors playing the biggest role. He also said that problems with the spine could affect the nerves in the body, which could have an adverse impact on concentration and coordination skills.

The organisations said they hoped that the Department of Health could carry out spinal checks among Primary One students and give priority to children living in subdivided flats. They also suggested providing furniture to these children and speeding up the public housing waiting process to improve their living environments.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.