HONG KONG • Hong Kong youth were less happy than their peers in Singapore even before historic protests erupted against legislation allowing extraditions to China, a survey by the City University of Hong Kong showed.
Researchers polled 2,304 people under the age of 40 - with roughly half of the respondents in Hong Kong, and the other half in Singapore - to gauge the relative appeal of living in the two rival Asian financial hubs.
The "Happiness Index" study was conducted from January to June, just before demonstrations began.
The study found that Hong Kong residents rated their happiness levels at an average of 6.80 on a scale of one to 10, compared with 7.48 for Singaporeans.
Of the 11 poll categories covering satisfaction with political, recreational and economic conditions, people in Hong Kong - the world's priciest personal property market - were the least pleased with their housing conditions.
Hong Kong's historic protests have been led in large part by students and other young people. They have morphed into a wider movement against growing Chinese influence over the city, with calls for Beijing-backed Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down and escalating clashes between demonstrators and police.
The survey's lead researcher, Professor Dennis Wong, said that if the study were conducted now, Hong Kong residents' happiness levels would be even lower.
"The protests have led to a group of young people becoming depressed because they feel helpless. The government is not listening to them," Prof Wong said, calling on Mrs Lam's government to invite the youth for talks in order to resolve the issue. He said increased malaise among Hong Kong youth would cause it to fall behind Singapore.
"Hong Kong has already been overtaken by Singapore in many ways," he said. "If this goes on, we will lose in every way."