97% HK citizens suffer from "suboptimal health" symptoms: survey


Most of the Hong Kong citizens are experiencing symptoms of "suboptimal health", while many of them share low awareness of the condition and over-optimistic about their health, according to survey results released on Monday.

The survey conducted by the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong shows that the vast majority (97%) of the respondents had experienced at least one sub-health symptoms. People aged 30-49, who are in the prime of their lives but undertake constant pressures from work and family, was affected the most, having 9 symptoms on average.

Fifteen sub-health symptoms, which were divided into physical and mental health-related symptoms, including indigestion, back pain, low mood, sleep disorders etc. have been mentioned in the survey.

The most commonly reported symptoms are tired eyes, back pain and chronic fatigue. According to the survey, over 70% of the respondents have complained to have suffered from these symptoms respectively.

"Hong Kong people are overlooking their body's warning signs," said Cecilia Chan, professor in health and social work at HKU.

Even though most people experienced sub-health symptoms and 58% reported discomfort in the last three months, many (57%) still believed that they were in good health, according to the survey.

Chan said, Hong Kong people's fast-paced lifestyle, poor diet, long working hours, lack of sleep and exercise were all factors that may contribute to impaired immune system function and psychological well-being. The sub-health conditions can have negative impact on work performance, family and social lives, tapping people in a vicious cycle, she added.

Chan suggested that people can improve health conditions by taking care of their  bodies, emotions and social activities. "Apart from adequate sleep and proper amount of exercise, it is also important to keep a positive attitude, and a balanced diet may help the body to perform at its best," she said.

The survey randomly interviewed 535 Hong Kong residents aged between 18 and 65 by telephone. "Due to the age and sex distribution of Hong Kong's population, " said Karie Pang, assistant director of the Public Opinion Programme, "we have adjusted our data by the weighted method to increase the overall representativeness of our statistics."

Based on the World Health Organization's definition of health, a "state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity", the intermediate state of disease and health has been defined as "sub-health" in this survey.

However, lacking of precise definition by official health bodies, the term "sub-health" remains a vague concept.

The concept of sub-health has gone popular in the Chinese mainland in the 90s and has been controversial. It was accused of being a commercial excuse for the business of health care products by the local media.

"Sub-health is a vulnerable health condition and at a greater risk of developing a chronic disease," Chan said. "I believe that people should pay more attentions to their health conditions and take preventative efforts."