, Hong Kong

Around 1 in 10 Hong Kongers show PTSD symptoms one year after COVID

Unemployment and time spent watching pandemic news were linked to the symptoms.

More than one in 10 of 12.4% of Hong Kong residents had exhibited post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a year after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a study by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University showed.

The study which involved a large-scale telephone survey of over 3,000 Hong Kong residents, also found that being unemployed or having no personal income, and with lower educational attainment were associated with a higher chance of having PTSD symptoms.

PolyU also found that the amount of time spent watching pandemic-related news can be associated with the severity of PTSD symptoms.

It noted that the respondents who watch news related to the pandemic for over an hour a day were found to be associated with increased compliance with the anti-pandemic measures and related advice, as well as more severe symptoms.

On compliance with preventative measures, the study found that middle-aged or older females with higher educational attainment were more compliant, whilst maintaining good hand hygiene and environmental hygiene was the most difficult to follow.


About 46% of the respondents were willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the majority of whom were middle-aged or older married males who were family caregivers with lower educational attainment.

The study was completed between December 2020 and February 2021 during the fourth wave of the pandemic and around one year after its onset. Of the respondents, 69% were aged between 18 to 59 years old and most are working adults.

The second component of the study, which involved in-depth interviews of 31 adults aged over 65, found that the elderly generally believed that the COVID-19 pandemic was highly transmissible. As a result, most of them avoided leaving home for exercise and stopped regular activities.

Most of them also experienced “worry, helplessness, and depression,” whilst some expressed frustration.

It also found that the interviewees’ willingness to be vaccinated was primarily affected by their personal experiences, and opinions of their peers and families, adding that lack of understanding about the vaccines, cultural perception, and peer pressure were the main contributors to hesitancy.

Fragile social networks and weak family support were the greatest barriers to vaccination, it said.

David Shum, dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences at PolyU, said the elderly were still suffering the negative impacts of the pandemic even if the fourth wave had been gradually subsiding when the survey was conducted. 

“Being in a constant state of stress and not managing it could cause adverse impacts on our mood and daily lives, may lead to mental health problems in the long run,” he said. 

He added that the public should carefully assess their PTSD symptoms and monitor changes in their own bodies, behaviours, and socialising activities, and seek help from professionals or social welfare organisations if the symptoms start to affect their daily lives.

Judy Yuen-man Siu, associate professor of the Department of Applied Social Sciences, said clearer health information about the vaccines should be disseminated to the elderly, and more resources should be invested in elderly support networks.

The study which aimed to explore the level of adult psychological trauma one year after the start of the pandemic was supported by the Health and Medical Research Fund of the Food and Health Bureau.

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