As I type away on my laptop in yet another week of working from home, a steady stream of updates appear on my phone:
‘Deadly coronavirus claims another victim’
‘New theories on coronavirus transmission’
‘Supermarket shelves wiped clean amid coronavirus fears’
It’s enough to make anybody feel anxious.
Indeed, few have forgotten the scars left behind by the SARS epidemic of 2003, and as Hong Kong once again braces itself for a battle against the novel strain, so too does it face another threat - the one to our mental health and wellbeing.
To give you an idea of the mental health status in Hong Kong, a study in 2019 found that mental health in the city was at its worst level in 8 years, with a mental health index measuring just 44.6 compared to the global ‘acceptable’ standard of 52¹. The annual survey, which is conducted using the WHO-5 Wellbeing Index, showed that there has been a year-on-year deterioration in wellbeing since 2012¹².
Now for the first time in Hong Kong’s history, businesses are forced to confront the challenge of remote working on a mass scale. Social distancing and self-isolation have disrupted the communal fabric, while media channels bombard us with constant news, igniting a frenzy of hysteria and panic. It is no wonder we are feeling more stressed, anxious and lonely than ever.
Yet the impact of such negative feelings are profound and goes way beyond just ‘mental health’. Stress and anxiety can actually affect your immune system, making you more susceptible to catching colds and flu. Thus it is more important now than ever to make sure you stay mentally healthy and maintain good daily habits in order to facilitate optimal mental and physical wellness. There is no doubt that everyone needs to find ways to relax and combat these negative feelings. In my next article, I will outline 7 practical ways in which you can stay mentally healthy during the coronavirus outbreak. Please stay tuned.
Dr Winnie Ho (From Health and Employee Benefits, AXA Hong Kong and Macau)
¹ Mind HK’s commissioned WHO-5 Research: https://www.mind.org.hk/press-releases/wmhd2019/
² Mental health in Hong Kong at its worst level in eight years, affected by ongoing social unrest: survey https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/3032234/mental-health-hong-kong-its-worst-level-eight