Up to a quarter of young Hong Kong people were found to have suffered from probable mental health issues, with depression ranked as the most prevalent disorder, according to research conducted by the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

HKU mental health (1)
HKU released a study on mental health of Hong Kong young people. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

The HKU research released on Thursday surveyed over 3,000 Hong Kong residents aged 15 to 24 to assess the prevalence of mental health issues and identify sources of stress from 2019 to 2022.

The study, weighted with reference to the city’s demographics, suggested that 16.6 per cent of young people have experienced at least one of five mental disorders: depression, anxiety, panic disorder, bipolar disorder or psychotic disorder.

Adding in people who suffered from other disorders – such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – the weighted prevalence rose to 25 per cent, said Eric Chen, chair professor of HKU’s department of psychiatry.

Political factor

Nearly a fifth of respondents told researchers they had had suicidal thoughts in the past 12 months, while 5 per cent and 1.5 per cent had made plans to end their lives or attempted to do so, respectively.

Females and people living in public housing with lower income, were found to have a greater tendency for depression, Chen added. The percentage of young women who planned their suicides was double that of young men, too, the research showed.

Liberal Studies HKDSE
Students took the last ever Liberal Studies public exam on April 27, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Over 40 per cent of those surveyed identified academic stress as their primary cause of anxiety, followed by work or career-related pressures, which nearly 15 per cent chose as their main stressor, and 12.5 per cent said they felt pressure over their future.

Researcher Stephanie Wong said, when asked about the impact of the shifting political climate and Covid-19 on the mental health of young people, that social phenomena and current affairs may not be the main factor of stress, but they contributed to other major factor, such as the future and family relationship.

Wong said that while it was difficult to pinpoint the impact of a single factor on a person’s mental health, “[socio-political events] are something that definitely do have an impact on the population.”

Happy Hong Kong

Former Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung was also present at the press conference as the chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Mental Health. HKFP asked if the former official agreed that the government’s recently launched “Happy Hong Kong” campaign could help alleviate depression among the younger generation in Hong Kong.

“It’s not just an emotional thing to keep yourself happy, [there is] a lot more behind that in terms of the simulation of the economics, and so on, which will have a very tremendous impact on mental health generally when it comes to improving mental health in Hong Kong,” Wong said.

He added that mental health is a massive subject, and the mission for now is to identify the different risk factors and to address them.

Cinema day movie film hello hong kong audience
Dozens of people queued up outside cinema in Mong Kok as the sales for HK$30 cinema ticket kicks off on Thursday. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

“But of course it’s not as simple as just, you know, putting up some campaign… [there is] a lot more to be done,” the senior barrister said, adding that infrastructure was necessary, too.

In April, the government launched “Happy Hong Kong” campaign, designed to boost Hongkongers’ morale and the city’s economy, with HK$30 cinema tickets and a food market.

When asked how the administration would evaluate the effectiveness or success of the campaign, Chan said that it would be “pretty difficult to have a very well-defined numeric criteria to be established.”

“Because at the end of the day, whether people are happy or not, it is, indeed, very emotional and very, kind of, personal experiences,” said Chan.

Support HKFP  |  Policies & Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps

Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp methods
YouTube video

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.

Success! You're on the list.

Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.