Asia HK unrest beginning to affect mental health of more than 2 million...

HK unrest beginning to affect mental health of more than 2 million people: Study

Experts warn territory "under-resourced" to provide care to affected individuals

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Hong Kong — The ongoing social and political unrest in Hong Kong is beginning to take a toll on the mental health of more than two million people.

According to a recent study by researchers from the University of Hong Kong, many adults have increasingly shown symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) over the past year.

The study compared results from two previous surveys on mental health in 2009 and 2014, along with seven additional surveys from 2014 to November last year.

It was found that PTSD symptoms among adults were reported by 5 per cent of respondents in the March 2015 survey. However, the number rose to 32 per cent from September to November last year at the height of the unrest.

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Such figures suggest that at least 1.9 million Hong Kong adults aged 18 and above are showing symptoms of PTSD. The population of the territory is estimated at 7.5 million.

This mental condition is characterised by three main types of symptoms:

  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event through intrusive and distressing flashbacks or nightmares.
  • Avoiding places, people, and activities that remind them of the trauma.
  • Having difficulty sleeping, concentrating, or feeling jumpy and easily irritated or angered.

Twenty-two per cent of respondents to last year’s survey also reported probable signs of major depression or suspected PTSD.

The study added that the drastic increase in mental health issues among Hong Kong residents is comparable to the scale of symptoms observed following “large-scale disasters, armed conflicts, or terrorist attacks”.

Additionally, the study discussed how “heavy politics-related social media use” was strongly linked with poor mental health.

Experts warned that Hong Kong is “under-resourced” to provide mental and social care to these affected individuals.

Public health measures during an unrest include health needs assessment, ensuring safety, and restoring the population’s ability to engage in daily routines and community activities.”

The study is titled “Depression and post-traumatic stress during major social unrest in Hong Kong: A 10-year prospective cohort study” and is published in The Lancet. /TISG

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