How Has the Covid-19 Pandemic Affected the Mental Health of Young People in Hong Kong?

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Young people living in Hong Kong experienced many changes during the pandemic. Schools were closed for several months at a time, physical activities were restricted, and opportunities to spend time with friends were limited. As well as these changes, young people shared worries and anxieties that they, family members or other people close to them would become ill. They may have watched loved ones become ill – or recovered from physical illness themselves. Some young people may also have had to cope with loss or grief. 

As with most countries around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic affected the mental well-being of many young people in Hong Kong. According to one study, around one-third of young people may have had worse mental health after the pandemic than before. Children and teenagers who were struggling academically may have been particularly affected because of school closures and worries that they would not be able to perform as well as they wanted.

This blog explores the effects of Covid-19 on young people’s mental health in Hong Kong and provides insight into how teenagers and adolescents are feeling today. It also offers information about the support available for young people to help them cope and recover from mental health concerns.

How Did Young People’s Mental Health in Hong Kong Change During the Pandemic?

Last month, in June 2023, a group of researchers published a study that explored how the mental health of over 6000 secondary school children (aged 10-16) changed during the first four waves of the pandemic. 

They found that:

  • Around 30% said that their mental health had become worse
  • Around 20% said that it had improved
  • Almost 50% said that it had stayed the same

The researchers also looked into how different aspects of young people’s lives – such as their sleep, academic performance, and gender – might have changed the way the pandemic affected their mental health. They found that some characteristics made young people more likely to be negatively affected by the pandemic, while others made them more resilient.

Academic Performance 

Young people who were dissatisfied with their academic performance were almost 50% more likely to have had worse mental health after the pandemic than others. Children and teenagers who felt that they were not achieving well in school may have been more worried about disruptions to lessons and uncertainty about the future. They may have found it more difficult to learn through online lessons and a experienced lack of personal support.

Family Life

Children and teenagers who were satisfied with their family life were more likely to report that their mental health had improved during the pandemic. Young people who felt comfortable at home may have found it easier to cope with school closures than those who had a more unstable home environment. For children who experienced regular conflict and tension between family members or themselves, staying at home during lockdowns may have been difficult and distressing. On the other hand, those who had supportive relationships with their family may have benefited from spending more time together with quieter daily routines.

Hong Kong Today: Young People and Mental Health Disorders

After the instability and isolation of lockdowns, many young people were left with worse mental health than before. Some of these young people may have developed mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression. While there is limited data available about the prevalence of mental health disorders among young people, research has found that among adults, the number of people in Hong Kong who experienced symptoms of depression or anxiety drastically increased during the pandemic. 

In 2023, researchers began a survey among 4500 young people aged 15-24, aiming to produce the first representative estimates of mental health disorders among young people in Hong Kong. When these results are published, we should have a clearer idea of how young people were affected by the pandemic – and how they are feeling today.

Mental Health Support for Young People

When young people are struggling with their mental health, navigating daily life can be really hard. Mental health conditions can affect every part of a child or teenager’s life, from their mood to their school work and their relationships with others.

The good news is that mental health disorders are treatable and, with the right support, young people can feel better. Young people may benefit from a variety of therapeutic, experiential, and medical options – and often a combination of several approaches. Each young person is unique and responds differently to treatment, so it’s important to find the right kind of treatment for them.

Some types of support for young people include:

  • Behavioural therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Medication
  • Experiential therapy
  • Creative arts or music therapy
  • Life skills development
  • Yoga and meditation

Many mental health conditions are rooted in underlying issues, like past experiences of trauma or a young person’s self-esteem. Mental health treatment must address these issues, helping young people to heal from within and achieve lasting recovery. Recovery programs should also be tailored to the specific needs of young people, reflecting the uniqueness of adolescence as a time of growth and change.

The Wave Clinic – Specialist Mental Health Treatment for Young People

The Wave Clinic is a specialist mental health treatment centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, dedicated to the needs of young people. Our transformative programs combine exceptional clinical care with education and global citizenship, supporting young people to build fulfilling futures.

We take a whole-person approach to recovery, helping young people to lay the groundwork for a successful and happy life through seven core elements. We believe in fairness, inclusion, and respect for every teenager or young adult who walks through our doors.

If you would like to find out more about our programs or start the admissions process, contact us today. We’re here for you.

Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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