Growing academic pressure and broken family lives have caused the happiness of Hong Kong children to plummet to a record low since 2012, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

The Children’s Happiness Index, conducted by Lingnan University, shows that two groups of children – those aged eight to nine and those over 14 – are noticeably more unhappy compared to others. The overall index dropped by 25 points to 6.49, when compared to last year’s 6.74. It is also the lowest since the survey first began 2012.

With a general decrease of happiness among all interviewees, the survey suggested this may relate to the growing pressure from school work and adverse relationships with their parents.

According to the survey, students are spending around 10 more minutes working on their homework compared to last year. Primary four students have the longest hours, with an average of 151 minutes necessary to work on their assignments every day.

Prof. Ho Lok-sang talks about HK Children Happiness Index 2015. Photo: Lingnan University

Professor Ho Lok-sang from the university’s Centre for Public Policy Studies told RTHK he believed children should not be put under “excessive drilling”.

“These days, we see even primary one [and] primary two kids having a lot of homework. Even kindergarten children have homework. I think it’s really unreasonable because the younger they are, the less able they are to cope with homework,” Ho said.

Parenting in Hong Kong Photo: thestandnews

Ho also believed the recent spate of suicides among children suggests a problem with parenting. The survey suggested that children whose parents enforce more disciplinary action against them are unhappier than other children.

The survey was based on answers from 428 students from nine primary schools and 718 from 14 secondary schools, who were asked to rate their happiness level on a scale of 0 to 10.

In 2013, a UN Committee on children’s rights expressed concerns about the competitive nature of Hong Kong’s education system and the effect it was having on the mental wellbeing of children in Hong Kong. The report called upon the Hong Kong government to do more to make sure a child’s “right to play” was protected.

Ashley Chan

Ashley is a Hong Kong-based multi-media journalist. She has a special interest in arts and culture. She has worked with the BBC and the Associated Press and holds a journalism degree from the University of Sheffield.