Prolonged social unrest can take a toll on the mental health of a community. This is one of the conclusions of a 10-years long observational study in Hong Kong, published in the recent issue of The Lancet. The researchers found that the ongoing social unrest in the country may be affecting the mental health of the general population. This could lead to an increase in demand for psychological or mental health support services.
The findings are based on a population-based prospective cohort study where people aged 18 years and above were selected. They were assessed at nine timepoints from the baseline year of 2009. The researchers assessed and measured depression and PTSD. They took into account direct exposure to traumatic events associated with the ongoing social unrest. They discounted pre-existing cases of participants with diagnosed depression or anxiety disorders.
Probable depression was at an average of 1.9 percent of the participants in the 2009-14 period. This figure went up to 6.5 percent after the Occupy Central Movement in 2017 and 11·2 percent in 2019 during the current unrest. PTSD was estimated to be 12.8 percent in 2019. While the researchers found no influence of sex, age, education or income levels, exposure to social media and political attitudes did play a part. Family support helped to counter probable depression. The researchers estimated that the burden on health-care services would increase by an estimated 12 percent.