With high-powered jobs and chaotic lifestyles, Hong Kong workers are overly stressed and often unhealthy. In July, Matilda International Hospital will open its doors for a newly renovated health assessment center in the hopes of helping them change their routines

By Blessing Waung

It’s no great secret that Hong Kong is a high-stress environment in which to live. Whether at work or at play, many Hong Kong residents submit themselves to long hours, late nights, and generally unsustainable lifestyles.

In an interview with Matilda International Hospital’s Dr. Hans Schrader, executive medical director for the hospital and a key advocate for health assessments, he said that the hospital is working with companies and individuals alike to ensure better lifestyle choices, including corrective measures affecting a large chunk of the patients they see.

“In Hong Kong, you walk from your bed to your office almost,” Dr. Schrader says.

Unlike in the US, Schrader postulates, where companies close for business earlier in most cities, Hong Kong is a high-stress, non-stop work and play environment. Therefore, for patients who come to Matilda, the staff seeks to do a thorough check on not only their physical well-being, but also their emotional and mental wellbeing.

“We ask them: how much stress do you have, and questions about coping,” Dr. Schrader says. “We see a lot of high achievers, so high stress comes along with the job.”

According to the hospital’s research, globally and in Hong Kong, those attuned to their own health needs are willing to pay a premium for comprehensive health assessments. In July, Matilda will open its doors to a brand-new health assessment department to complement the facilities already open in the medical centers located in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui.

However, there are many who ignore their body’s needs, and need key drivers in order to be compelled to visit and get a full checkup.

“There are a few big drivers: spouse, colleagues, or disasters,” Dr. Schrader says. “If the CEO of a company has a [medical] problem such as cancer, suddenly everybody comes.”

Though it’s rare for health assessments to result in discovering cancer or other urgent matters, about a tenth of the clients assessed have had abnormally high cholesterol, with 22 percent still on the borderline. There are also clients at risk for hypertension, so the health assessments help minimize risk before any problems arise.

“Men need hard evidence that something is wrong,” Dr. Schrader says. “You can tell women to change their lifestyle and they will probably do so. But men need something tangible. They need to see their cholesterol compared to a list [of their peers] or somebody they know.” For corporations that approach the hospital, the staff prepares overall reports summarizing the results of all their employees, giving tailored feedback to how the company can work to improve any negative health trends.

“I think Hong Kong has a binge problem,” Dr. Schrader says. “But we don’t screen for that. Alcohol and drug use in Hong Kong is actually binging [behavior]. People are out on the weekends, they load themselves up, have a bad day and the next day they are fine.”

Corporations that find major trends can make sweeping changes through their HR departments to ensure that employees are more conditioned to take care of their health, by encouraging them with measures to quit smoking, eat more healthily, and importantly, exercise regularly.

“Of the 5,000 medicals we’ve done … about two out of three of our clients don’t do much about exercise,” Dr. Schrader says. “So it’s no wonder Hong Kong makes exercise prescriptions.”

The advent of wearable technology has helped, Dr. Schrader believes, with some companies signing their employees up for global competitions involving the devices. Again, this trend plays into the competitive aspect of Hong Kong’s workforce, but he has seen patients whose weight and cholesterol levels fall after signing up for such competitions.

Though the fast-paced standard of living in Hong Kong is unavoidable, Dr. Schrader believes that many medical problems are, if patients are willing to make the trip to the doctor for a scrupulous evaluation.

“We are getting better at narrowing this gap [between the average and healthy habits],” Dr. Schrader says. “But it requires a lot of data and analysis. It requires a lot of emphasis and for the doctors to all give the same message.”