TW Viewpoint | Depression and Social Unrest in Hong KongSeptember 30, 2022 | Bruno Duval
The end of the decade 2010–2019 has been marked by numerous demonstrations, protests, and social movements around the world. Whether it is the protests in Barcelona for the independence of Catalonia, the yellow vest movement in France or the protests in Hong Kong against the amendment of the extradition law, people all over the world want their voices to be heard and they wish to express their opinions in a loud, clear and ongoing manner.
The costs associated with the security logistics due to the riots and the violence generated by such demonstrations are enormous! In December 2019, Reuters reported that since the beginning of the demonstration in June, the costs of the Hong Kong police force amounted to US$120 million in overtime alone.
According to the website hongkongfp.com, about 10.5 million Hong Kong dollars had to be spent on property maintenance costs, and over 200 million US dollars were needed to repair the damage caused in the subway.
Furthermore, there is also a human cost associated with the Hong Kong protests. Indeed, as of December 2019, two people have died since the beginning of the events while more than 2600 casualties have been recorded. But it would seem that this social unrest has most notably had repercussions on citizens' mental health. According to a study published in the British magazine The Lancet, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression have risen sharply among Hong Kongers since the start of the pro-democracy demonstrations. This study was conducted among 18,000 people aged 15 and over, between 2009 and 2019. It reveals that 37.4% of Hong Kong's adult population have shown depressive symptoms since the start of the demonstration in June 2019; 11% of the population reported probable depression or suspected PTSD since the beginning of the crisis, which is 6 times higher than in 2014 before the Umbrella Movement. This increase
"… is comparable to those experiencing large-scale disasters, armed conflicts, or terrorist attacks." (Depression and post-traumatic stress during major social unrest in Hong Kong: a 10-year prospective cohort study, The Lancet)
Suicidal thoughts were also reported in the study. Michael Ni of the University of Hong Kong, co-director of the study, states that
"social unrest as an emerging sociopolitical determinant of population mental health remains largely unassessed" (ibid.)
According to the same study, the conclusion is simple:
"Hong Kong is under-resourced to deal with this excess mental health burden" (ibid.)
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