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Spiritual and mental health of teenagers in Hong Kong and in mainland China under the impact of COVID-19

Chi Hung Leung (Special Education and Counselling, The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China)
Yan Mu (Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China)

Asian Education and Development Studies

ISSN: 2046-3162

Article publication date: 14 September 2021



The rates of emotional distress have risen in many countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study assessed the emotional distress of adolescents and young adults in Hong Kong and mainland China in the first year of the pandemic and tested whether spirituality was a protective factor against this emotional distress.


Cross-sectional data were collected in two samples of students aged 17–25 in Hong Kong (N = 503) and 13–20 in mainland China (N = 649). Participants completed the Spiritual Health and Life Orientation Measure (SHALOM) to evaluate their spiritual health (personal-communal, environmental and transcendental domains) and the short form of the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21) to assess their emotional distress.


Based on the DASS-21 scores, there was a high rate of adolescents and young adults categorized as showing extremely severe symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress in both Hong Kong and mainland China. Structural equation modeling showed that in both the Hong Kong and mainland China samples the personal and communal and environmental domains of spiritual health were significantly and negatively correlated with all three forms of emotional distress. However, transcendental spiritual health was uncorrelated with psychological distress in Hong Kong and positively correlated with psychological distress in mainland China.

Research limitations/implications

The high rate of severe emotional distress in this sample of adolescents and young adults under COVID-19, and the fact that not all aspects of spiritual health protected again psychological distress are cause for concern, with implications for government, education systems and students.


Healthy spirituality can be found among youths who are upbeat, self-confident, optimistic and constructive and have also been shown to have a higher quality of life in the form of mental, physical and psychological health. The present study is the first study to examine the spiritual and mental health of high school and university students under the impact of COVID-19 in mainland China and in Hong Kong.



Leung, C.H. and Mu, Y. (2021), "Spiritual and mental health of teenagers in Hong Kong and in mainland China under the impact of COVID-19", Asian Education and Development Studies, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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