Stressed out and run down: Hong Kong near back of pack in new well-being survey

Commuters on an MTR train. Photo via Mikey Alvero.
Commuters on an MTR train. Photo via Mikey Alvero.

Hong Kong was the fifth-most stressed out place, and fourth-worst off in terms of overall health and well-being in a new survey of 23 markets of varying levels of development conducted by the international health care company Cigna.

The survey questioned more than 13,000 people in different locations around the world in an effort to measure respondents’ assessments of their own physical, family, social, financial, and work-related well-being.

In 20th place, Hong Kong beat out Turkey, Taiwan, and Korea in Cigna’s overall rankings, but fared far worse than mainland China (fifth place), and was edged out by regional rival Singapore (19th place).

More interestingly, however, Hong Kong was blown out of the water by several less-developed, but apparently more optimistic markets, like India (first place), Nigeria (third place), and Indonesia (fourth place), to name just three. Based on 2016 figures, Hong Kong had the sixth-highest per capita GDP of all the locales surveyed.

The survey found that 91 percent of Hong Kong respondents were stressed out — compared to an average across all markets of 84 percent — with 15 percent reporting that their stress levels were “unmanageable.” Reported feelings of unmanageable stress edged up slightly for the SAR’s so-called “sandwich generation,” defined here as people aged 35 to 49, who find themselves in the position of supporting both their parents, and their own children — in the most expensive city in the world, we might add.

Even so, only 3 percent of respondents reported seeing a medical professional about their stress, down from 10 percent last year.

“Lack of access to professional help and the stigma associated with seeking help for stress are probably why the number remains low highlighting the need to create discussion and openness around the benefits of seeking professional help,” Cigna noted in a release accompanying the survey.

Hong Kong’s women, meanwhile, reported lower scores than men (51.8 on the index, compared to men at 56.2) across all measures of physical health, and in terms of financial well-being (51.4, compared to 53.6 for men).

Of the 91 percent of women who reported feeling stressed, 42 percent said they felt as though they worked in an “always on” environment. About half of female respondents, however, felt that workplace wellness programs didn’t address their specific needs, and that higher-ups didn’t “seriously support” wellness programs in the first place.

“Hong Kong’s pressure cooker working environment and high cost of living further add to the challenges facing them,” Cigna Hong Kong CEO Yuman Chan was quoted as saying in the release. “Employers have more options available to help address the situation, keeping in mind how the working group is the driving force behind businesses.”

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