Children from low-income families in Hong Kong hit hard by Covid-19

HONG KONG – The Covid-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on students from low-income families, a study from the University of Hong Kong has revealed.

He said children in these families suffered from poorer health during the pandemic, due to unhealthy diets, lack of sleep and being confined in small homes for long hours.

The study, conducted by the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, followed 1,600 children aged three to six who attended kindergarten in Sham Shui Po and Tin Shui Wai between 2018 and this year.

About 12 percent of those surveyed lived in housing estates or temporary accommodation, and 30 percent of the children’s parents had secondary or lower education.

The study found that more than 75 percent of children had excessive sodium intake, about 12 percent lacked vitamin D because they didn’t spend enough time outdoors, and more than 80 percent slept less than 10 hours per day, below the recommended 10 to 13 hours for toddlers.

Another problem facing children from low-income families is the digital divide, Professor Anthony Fung of the Center of Youth Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong told Straits Times. The divide grew larger when schools had to close during the pandemic and classes were moved online.

Yet the physical and mental well-being of the city’s students, although below international standards, was not much different before and during the pandemic, according to a university survey released in early June of this year.

Hong Kong students scored 6.97 points on the life satisfaction scale, below the 7.80 points on the cross-country average.

The survey was conducted among 5,300 students aged 11, 13 and 15 from 21 primary schools and 19 secondary schools.

“We carried out the survey over the different years, but we did not find any significant difference in mental and physical health due to Covid-19,” Professor Fung said.

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