More Hong Kong secondary school students find themselves stressed amid the Covid-19 pandemic as compared to last year, with almost half of them worried about not being able to catch up with class following months of school suspensions, a survey has revealed.
Other major sources of worry include Covid-19 infection fears and conflicts with peers in a deeply divided society following last year’s social unrest.
The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, which released its findings on Thursday, also expressed concerns that nearly 22 per cent of students displayed signs of anxiety, including 5 per cent who showed severe anxiety levels.
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“The survey results show that [secondary] school students hold a high standard for themselves in terms of their academic performance, resulting in a higher level of stress,” said the federation’s services coordinator, Hsu Siu-man.
“The Covid-19 pandemic also had an impact on their stress levels, given that classes had been suspended for a long time. Some of them were particularly concerned about whether they had missed out on the syllabus after online classes replaced face-to-face ones.”
More than 52 per cent of 4,443 secondary school pupils surveyed between September and last month reported a “high stress” index of 7 to 10, on a 10-point scale, while 400 students gave themselves a 10 on the self-assessed index.
Last year, about 41 per cent of 2,700 students polled in the annual survey reflected a high stress index, while the figure was 37 per cent in 2018.
Respondents were asked to choose from a list of factors that worried them the most. Similar to previous years, academic reasons such as facing coming exams (77 per cent) and getting worse-than-expected results (62 per cent) remained the top stressors.
Some 45 per cent cited a new reason for their stress, saying they were concerned about not being able to catch up with learning progress following months of taking lessons from home, while 25 per cent said they worried about difficulties readapting to face-to-face classes.
In-person classes at Hong Kong schools were suspended for about four months from early February, and only briefly resumed for around a month from May, before a third wave of coronavirus infections halted them again until late September.
In addition, more than 33 per cent of students said they feared being infected by the coronavirus.
About 10 per cent, meanwhile, said they were worried about having conflicts among peers because of different opinions on last year’s social unrest, while 9 per cent said they were afraid of the possibility of being excluded or even bullied by classmates.
One section of the survey, modelled after the Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale, a widely used self-administered test, asked students to indicate how frequently they experienced about 20 symptoms – such as tremors in their arms and legs, tiredness and rapid heart rate – over the past week, to measure their anxiety levels.
More than 11 per cent of the students surveyed displayed mild anxiety levels, while over 10 per cent showed moderate to severe levels of anxiety.
The group said it had urged schools to assist students to locate the source of their anxiety and help them cope with their stress levels. Providing more flexibility in exams could be one of the ways to relieve students of their stress levels, it added.