Hong Kong faces alarming rates of mental health issues among children, adolescents, and the elderly, according to CUHK Medical School study

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Dr. Linda Lam

29th November 2023 – (Hong Kong) A recent study conducted by the Faculty of Medicine, CUHK (CUHK Medical School), has shed light on the pressing mental health challenges faced by Hong Kong residents. The study focused on the mental well-being of children, adolescents, and the elderly, revealing that nearly 25% of interviewed children and adolescents experienced at least one form of mental illness in the past year, indicating that one in every four young individuals in Hong Kong is affected by a psychiatric disorder. Furthermore, approximately half of these individuals suffered from two or more mental disorders, with the most prevalent conditions being hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety disorder, and depression. Among the surveyed elderly population, the study found that 20% suffered from mild cognitive impairment, with the percentage rising significantly to 70% among those residing in care homes.

Conducted between 2019 and 2023, the survey involved interviews with 6,082 children and adolescents aged between 6 and 17, including non-Chinese ethnicities, as well as 4,871 individuals aged 60 and above, including 503 care home residents. Disturbingly, the findings revealed that nearly 4% of the interviewed children and adolescents had contemplated suicide in the past year. Of these, approximately 8% of secondary school students expressed suicidal intentions, and 2.3% had attempted suicide, prompting significant concern from the researchers. The study also highlighted that around 10% of children and adolescents reported experiencing sleep disturbances.

The analysis conducted by Faculty of Medicine, CUHK (CUHK Medical School) identified several common risk factors contributing to these mental health issues, including parents with noticeable clinical emotional distress, sleep disturbances in children and adolescents themselves, and academic difficulties. Non-Chinese ethnicities were found to have a higher risk of anxiety disorders. Additionally, the study revealed that nearly half of the caregivers were reluctant to seek professional assistance, and even those who received community services generally did not appreciate their own efforts.

Regarding the elderly, the survey showed that approximately 20% of the interviewed seniors suffered from mild cognitive impairment, with the prevalence increasing with age. Notably, around 70% of elderly residents in care homes were affected by cognitive disorders. Furthermore, caregivers of these individuals exhibited symptoms of anxiety and depression, highlighting the need for proper recognition and support.

Dr Linda Lam, Clinical Professor and Director at the Department of Psychiatry, Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) emphasised the importance of providing grassroots-level care to help the elderly manage their chronic conditions. She also recommended encouraging their social participation and early intervention to delay the progression of cognitive impairments.