- Baptist University survey suggests North district ranks highest on the city’s happiness scale, but social workers and youth groups disagree
- Locals point to conflict with neighbouring Shenzhen area which lies just across the border in mainland China
According to a university study, Hong Kong's northernmost district is the happiest of the city's 18 areas, but not everyone agrees.
Findings of the Baptist University survey showed that North district, located next to the mainland city of Shenzhen, scored 69 out of 100 in the happiness index. Sham Shui Po, among the poorest districts in Hong Kong, came bottom with a score of 37.
The study has not looked into why there were such differences in happiness level across districts. But Professor Adrian Bailey, dean of the university's faculty of social sciences who led the study, believed that the top score in the north could be because there is more space available there.
"The global research suggests that rural places are always happier than urban places. So the less dense an area is, the happier people are," Bailey said. "The explanation is typically given for that social capital."
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The happiness index from the study was arrived at after researchers interviewed 1,851 youngsters aged between 17 and 23. In the survey, which included a wide range of questions concerning well-being, young adults were asked to choose whether they were "very happy", "rather happy", "not very happy", "not at all happy" or "don't know". Based on their assessment, the researchers come up with a ranking for the districts.
But, a social worker who covers the North district believed otherwise.
"With all the effects brought by parallel goods traders, and the influx of drug stores in the last 10 years, youth I have approached with do not seem to be happy," said Kelvin Cheung, 28, an outreach worker in the area. "Instead, they feel like they are being exploited, and have little entertainment in the district."
He said the Hong Kong-mainland contradictions were obvious in the district, as the locals and the new immigrants from across the border were studying together at some schools in the district, which often led to conflict.
Pastor Roy Chan Hoi-hing, of Good Neighbourhood North District Church, also agreed that the local youth they have reached out do not seem to be "very happy", especially given the recent social unrest, "but relatively, North district is more spacious that young people might have more greener space in comparison with those living inside the city".
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The score given to Sham Shui Po, a working class neighbourhood in Kowloon, however did not surprise many others.
Bailey believed the score might be related to poverty in the area. A social concern group working in the district also agreed that social problems there might pose negative effects to the youth.
"The youth might see a tiny chance to move upwards along the social ladder, especially those who failed in the public exams around the age of 17," said Sze Lai-shan, community organiser for the Society for Community Organisation.
"Most of the youth live in subdivided flats, with limited resources and problematic families, and they might not see hope for the future. It is hard to be happy."
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