Exposure to socio-political unrest and wellbeing of older people in Hong Kong

Daniel W. L. Lai*, Emma H. S. Liu, Elsie C. W. Yan, Jessica J. Li, Vincent W. P. Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: The social unrest in the second half of 2019 in Hong Kong came with conflicts, confrontations, and violence which affected almost everyone in the city. The destruction and disruption of the urban facilities have undoubtedly had a significant impact on the lives and mental well-being of the public, and the older people are even more vulnerable. This study examined the impacts of the social unrest on the wellbeing of older people, an area that was seldomly addressed in the public discourse and literature.

    Methods: Narrative interviews were conducted to capture older people’s lived experiences and ways of making sense of the unrest in Hong Kong. A total of 63 participants aged 60 and above was recruited through personal networks of the research team, and referrals by participants who took part in the interviews. Qualitative semi-structure interviews was conducted one on one via telephone.

    Results: Thirty-three male and 30 female participants took part in the interview. The number of participants from different risk zones affected by political unrest was comparable. Three themes were generated. Participants experienced challenges during the social unrest, including disturbance to family and social life, reduced incomes which affect quality of life, and difficulties in socializing with friends and accessing medical services. The social unrest caused emotional disturbance, giving rise to feelings of panic, fear, insomnia, depression, annoyance, and anger. Participants reported different coping strategies, ranging from moving to other places, to avoiding going to risky areas and watching news.

    Conclusion: Social unrest brings emotional distress to older people. In many cases, older people cope with challenges in different ways, whether active or passive. Social workers and other professionals should give more support to older people to encourage them to overcome their difficulties. The stakeholders’ awareness of the problem and mental health promotion is required to alleviate the multiple layers of negative impacts.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number768
    Number of pages8
    JournalBMC Geriatrics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2022

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Geriatrics and Gerontology

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Coping strategies
    • Hong Kong
    • Mental health
    • Older adults
    • Social unrest


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