The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pandemic in Hong Kong: Effects on the subjective wellbeing of elderly and younger people

Anna L. D. LAU, Iris CHI, Robert A. CUMMINS, M. C. Tatia LEE, Kee Lee CHOU, Lawrence W. M. CHUNG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: This study examined the impact of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003, on the subjective wellbeing (SWB) of elderly people and a younger comparative sample. The Personal Wellbeing Index (PWI), a contemporary instrument employed to measure SWB, was also examined for its psychometric performance to substantiate its use.
Method: A total of 302 older adults (age 65 + years) and 158 younger adults (age 35-46 years) were recruited from different districts. Data were collected by individual face-to-face interviews.
Result: While elderly people living in severely infected districts showed significantly lower levels of SWB, these levels and those of the younger sample were found to remain within the normative range. A major mitigating factor was an increased sense of community- connectedness. Other characteristics linked to low wellbeing levels included chronic illness, female gender, low education and unemployment. The living districts, characterized by varying extents of infection, had stronger associations with SWB than participants' age. The PWI demonstrated good psychometric performance and also more robustness with elderly people, including its sensitivity to the sense of population threat.
Conclusion: Psychological resilience was identified among both the elderly and younger age-groups in Hong Kong during the SARS pandemic. The PWI is verified as a suitable instrument for SWB measurements. Copyright © 2008 Taylor & Francis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)746-760
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008


Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
Hong Kong
Psychological Resilience
Disease Outbreaks
Young Adult
Chronic Disease
Age Groups


Lau, A. L. D., Chi, I., Cummins, R. A., Lee, T. M. C., Chou, K.-L., & Chung, L. W. M. (2008). The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pandemic in Hong Kong: Effects on the subjective wellbeing of elderly and younger people. Aging and Mental Health, 12(6), 746-760. doi: 10.1080/13607860802380607


  • Elderly
  • Personal wellbeing index
  • Quality of life
  • SARS
  • Satisfaction
  • Subjective wellbeing