Sunday, 5 May 2013

Boys are facing double the risk of depression, Hong Kong study shows

Chinese culture blamed, with families having higher expectations than for girls, expert says

 Depressed Boys

Teenage boys are twice as likely to suffer from depression as girls, a survey shows.

The finding is opposite to that of similar surveys conducted in Western countries. One of the researchers says traditional Chinese culture is to blame.

Associate professor Sylvia Kwok Lai Yuk-ching, of City University, said: "Chinese families have higher expectations of boys than girls. That's why boys may experience more stress from their parents to deliver better academic performances."

As the stress accumulated, Kwok said, boys were more prone to getting depressed because men - unlike women - tend to bottle up their feelings instead of confiding in others.

The survey, commissioned by social welfare organisation St James' Settlement, was conducted between October and March and involved 1,033 secondary school pupils aged between 11 and 18 at four schools in Eastern District and Sham Shui Po, one of the city's biggest working class areas.

Researchers from the university's department of applied social studies found that overall, 32.7 per cent of the pupils had a tendency to slip into depression.

But the proportion of boys likely to be diagnosed as depressed was 14.5 per cent, compared with only 7.1 per cent for girls, they found.

Florence Lau Kam-ching, school social work service manager of St James' Settlement, said: "Whenever we see teenage boys diagnosed with depression, their level of seriousness is higher than the girls' as they've probably been harbouring negative emotions for a long time without relief."

The researchers also said pupils who came from single-parent families, whose mothers had low education, or who lived on monthly household incomes of less than HK$10,000, were more prone to emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression.

To help the children beat the blues, St James' Settlement undertook a programme at the four schools - the "Positive Life Ambassador Project". It taught pupils how to think positively and to be thankful for what they have.

Depression is the world's fourth most common illness, and the World Health Organisation believes it will become the most common by 2020.

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition on May 05, 2013 as Boys are facing double the risk of depression

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