Youth I.D.E.A.S. 10

Society and Livelihood

What Makes Young People Feel Negative

28 April, 2016



According to the World Happiness Report 2016[1], Hong Kong has fallen to 75th place in world happiness rankings among the 157 countries and territories surveyed. The city has dropped three places since 2015. In terms of developed economies, Hong Kong has a relatively low ranking. The rankings of other Asian countries, such as Singapore (22nd), Thailand (33rd), Taiwan (35th), Japan (53rd) and Korea (58th), are higher than that of Hong Kong. A survey reveals that Hong Kong has dropped to its lowest position in the past seven years in the Happiness Index[2]. While Hong Kong is a rich city, Hong Kong people, it seems, are not happy.


For months, the city has been bombarded by social conflicts, political issues, and stories about youth discontentment, anxiety and teen suicides, so much so that many people are convinced the sky is falling. It seems unavoidable that young people will struggle with this suffocating social atmosphere and experience feelings of pessimism.


According to academic definitions, optimism and pessimism are relative concepts. From the view of outcome expectancy[3], optimism has been found to be strongly and consistently associated with positive outcomes, and vice versa. Personal, family, school, career and social factors can lead to optimism or pessimism.


This study examines the youth’s perspective on personal and social development and investigates pessimism among youth. By exploring youth pessimism, the study also examines the reasons why youths may feel pessimistic and how they express their feelings of pessimism, as well as the negative effects of pessimism. The study uses a territory-wide random sample telephone poll, individual interviews and interviews with scholars and other experts to understand the aforementioned questions and puts forward recommendations on the basis of the findings.



  1. Young people tend to be optimistic about their future, while some of them are pessimistic about Hong Kong’s future. If there is a persistence of pessimism, it could affect young people’s enthusiasm regarding Hong Kong. This is not good for young people’s and Hong Kong’s development.
  2. For some young people, the main causes of pessimism are the politicized social atmosphere, intensified competition, low social mobility and a distrust of the governance that exist in Hong Kong. To avoid the spread of pessimism, the government should show their determination to solve these problems.
  3. Young people pay attention to social values, while their pursuit of value does not match the reality. Young people are not confident in upholding the core values of Hong Kong.
  4. The ways in which young people express pessimism tend to polarize, involving both withdrawal and engagement in social struggles.
  5. Though some young people feel negatively about Hong Kong’s future, the majority of them consider Hong Kong as home and are willing to contribute to positive changes to society. The society should treasure this.
  6. Optimism and pessimism is a state of mind on the choice. It is worth considering how the government can make young people feel optimistic and rebuild their confidence in the future of Hong Kong.



  1. The government should develop health indicators and release them periodically.
  2. Community members should be encouraged to instil positive energy in society, in order to turn youth pessimism into a positive force.
  3. The government should improve governance and tackle social problems, as well as build trust.





[1] World Happiness Report 2016. John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs. United Nations.

[2] Hong Kong Happiness Index 2015. Centre for Public Policy Studies of Lingnan University.

[3] With reference to C. S. Carver and M. F. Scheier (2002), S. C. Segerstrom (2001) and C. R. Snyder (2002).