Equal Opportunities Commission


E-news Issue 219


Survey sounds warning bell on Hongkongers’ mental health

Hongkongers’ mental health made a nosedive and once again scored below acceptable levels on the World Health Organization’s Five Well-Being Index (WHO-5) this year, according to the Hong Kong Mental Health Index published on 9 October 2019.

Conducted for the eighth year in a row, the survey was part of the annual awareness campaign “Mental Health Month”, jointly organised every October by rehabilitation groups and public bodies, including the EOC.

Respondents were presented with five statements from the WHO-5 questionnaire and asked to rate, for example, how often they felt cheerful, calm, active, fresh and interested in things in their daily life over the two weeks prior to the survey. The findings, based on a sample of 1,009 citizens aged 15 or above, were alarming. On average, Hongkongers scored 46.41 out of 100, down from 50.2 in 2018 and plunging further below the acceptable level generally agreed upon by academics, i.e. 52.

Certain groups received significantly lower scores, such as men, people aged 15 to 34, and those between jobs or without children. Some causes of negativity seemed to be shared. Over 40% (41.1%) of the respondents said social controversies had an extremely or fairly negative impact on their mental health, while 44.6% of those who were students said the same about schoolwork.

To gather empirical data for strengthening public education and support measures, respondents were also asked how much they agreed with the myths and labels surrounding suicide. The results show that 63.9% believed it is irresponsible to end one’s life; nearly 40% thought there is no way to prevent suicidal behaviour; and more than one-third agreed that when a person talks about committing suicide, he or she wouldn’t actually do it. Perhaps most worryingly of all, over 50% of the respondents said they wouldn’t let others know if they had suicidal thoughts, and 21.2% knew a relative or friend who had attempted suicide.

The report recommends a multi-pronged approach to improving Hongkongers’ mental wellness, one that encompasses stronger training for teachers and social workers, tailored support for different social groups (e.g. students and the elderly), as well as a cross-sector effort to create a society that respects differences and engages in genuine dialogue.