Mental health impact of ongoing social unrest in Hong Kong


  • Dawn O'Shea
  • Univadis Medical News
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The ongoing social unrest in Hong Kong is driving a major increase in mental health difficulties, according to a 10-year observational study published in The Lancet.

The study estimates that the prevalence of probable depression in Hong Kong residents aged ≥18 years was five times higher during the 2019 social unrest than it was before the 2014 Occupy Central Movement (11% in 2019 compared to 2% in 2009-2014).

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were six times higher, rising from around 5 per cent shortly after Occupy Central in March 2015 to almost 32 per cent in September-November 2019.

Adults accessing socio-political news and events on social media for two hours or more per day appeared to be more at risk of probable depression and suspected PTSD. However, family support seemed to protect against probable depression.

This study is the largest and longest prospective cohort study of the population-wide impact of social unrest on mental health in the world.

Commenting on the results, the authors said: “In a world of increasing unrest, our findings might have implications for service planning to better protect population mental health globally.”