Hong Kong’s children are the happiest they have been in five years, according to an annual survey, but researchers warned that the city’s recent protests crisis could be a blow to the findings.
This year’s Hong Kong Children Happiness Index, which was released on Tuesday, showed children in the city between the ages of nine and 18 to have an average happiness score of 6.81 out of 10, up from 6.73 last year and 6.74 in 2014/15. The last time the average score was higher was 2013/14 at 7.23.
The survey, now in its seventh year, was conducted from April to the first week in June. The poll was commissioned by the local non-profit organisation HK We Care.
The recent anti-government protests could lower children’s happiness, said Ho Lok-sang, director of the Polling and Public Opinion Centre at Chu Hai College of Higher Education.
“The current situation has led to the polarisation of society, so it will definitely affect the emotions of people and all age groups are at risk,” Ho said. “But if people can recognise their emotions and learn to manage them, it could lessen the negative effect.”
Ho said children’s emotions were likely be affected by their peers or by conflicting opinions between their parents. He said it would be best to avoid arguments about politics but “rational and open discussions could be encouraged”.
The survey included 2,293 responses from Hong Kong students at 15 primary schools and 10 secondary schools as well as from 197 teachers.
The researchers called on parents to give their children more free time.
“We found children feel their life has more value if they are given more free time,” said Simon Lam Ching, a member for the HK We Care research committee.
Children aged nine and below had the highest happiness score at 7.38. Lam said 5.21 per cent of Primary Four students reported feeling “very unhappy”, the highest out of all the age groups. They were followed by 6.24 per cent of the Form Three students who took part in the poll.
“This is worth noting because younger children should be happier. For the Primary Four children, it could be possible they face more bullying at school, while the Secondary Three children may be facing more pressure at school,” Ho said.
The researchers said parents and schools contributed to the happiness of children. They said children benefited from being taught values such as love, fortitude and empathy. Ho said these values could be taught by singing positive songs or watching films with positive messages.
Sylvia Chan May-kuen, a school principal and the co-chair of HK We Care, said a school’s environment was also a factor in children’s happiness.
“Adults need to lead by example and provide support for education in schools so there is an alignment between the values taught both at home and at school,” she said.
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