Threat to democracy: Physical and mental health impact of democracy movement in Hong Kong

Wai Kai HOU, Brian J. HALL, Daphna CANETTI, Kam Man LAU, Sin Man NG, Stevan E. HOBFOLL

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54 Citations (Scopus)


Background: This study examined the prevalence and critical predictors of anxiety and depressive symptoms and self-rated health, following the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. Methods: Random digit dialing recruited a population-representative sample of 1,208 Chinese Hong Kong citizens (mean age=46.89 years; 63% female) in the first two weeks of February 2015. Respondents gave their informed consent and reported personal, social, and economic resource loss since the Umbrella Movement (Conservation of Resources-Evaluation), current anxiety symptoms (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory) and depressive symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire-9), and self-rated health (1=very good, 4=very bad). Results: A total of 47.35% (95% CI=44.55, 50.17) respondents reported moderate/severe anxiety symptoms and 14.4% (95% CI=12.54, 16.50) reported moderate/severe depressive symptoms; 9.11% (95% CI=7.61, 10.86) reported “poor” or “very poor” health. Multivariable regressions revealed that personal and social resource loss was associated with anxiety and depressive symptoms and greater odds of “very poor” health (adjusted odds ratios/incidence rate ratios=5%-102%), independent of lower education level and income and being unmarried. Limitations: This study was cross-sectional in nature and thus could not determine causality from the associations between resource loss and outcome variables. Second, the telephone survey relied on self-reports; response bias and social desirability could influence respondents’ answers and discount data validity. Third, potential confounders such as preexisting mental and physical health issues and concurrent predictors like exposure to the Umbrella Movement were not assessed. Conclusions: This is one of the first studies following any recent political movement (e.g., The Arab Spring) to quantify distress and the associated correlates of distress among affected citizens. Perceived psychosocial resource losses were critical predictors of poor outcomes. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-82
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online dateJul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


Hou, W. K., Hall, B. J., Canetti, D., Lau, K. M., Ng, S. M., & Hobfoll, S. E. (2015). Threat to democracy: Physical and mental health impact of democracy movement in Hong Kong. Journal of Affective Disorders, 186, 74-82.


  • Political movements
  • Prevalence of psychiatric symptoms
  • Self-rated health
  • Conservation of resources theory
  • Hong Kong


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