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In Protest-Heavy Nation, a Big Find on PTSD

Nearly one-third of people in Hong Kong say they have PTSD symptoms
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 10, 2020 7:43 AM CST

(Newser) – A new study identifies a "major mental health burden" in Hong Kong, and it's linked to much of the social unrest there. Per the Guardian, a new study published in the Lancet journal notes that almost a third of adults there—nearly 2 million people—reported having symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder when protests were at their peak, while 10% of respondents reported depression symptoms. Researchers from the University of Hong Kong involved with the 10-year study say these numbers aren't far off from those seen in war-torn areas or places hit by terror attacks. And the latest round of demonstrations there seems to have had a greater effect than previous ones: Researchers found that locals' PTSD symptoms between September and November of last year was about six times higher than figures reported back in 2015, shortly after pro democracy protests in 2014.

The study compiled its stats using surveys of 18,000 people in Hong Kong between 2009 and 2019, calling it the "largest and longest study of the population-wide impact of social unrest on mental health in the world," per the Guardian. And researchers say those figures may be on the conservative side, as the study didn't include young people under the age of 18, who tend to show up at the demonstrations. Using social media heavily during such chaotic times also appears tied to an uptick in PTSD and depression symptoms. "With social unrest rising around the world ... the issue of how social unrest impacts population mental health is of great public-health importance," study co-author Michael Ni says. Fellow co-author Gabriel Leung, meanwhile, warns Hong Kong is "under-resourced" to deal with the issue, per CNN. (Read more Hong Kong stories.)

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