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The number of Hong Kong children and teens aged below 18 who were diagnosed with depression jumped by 118% in five years, according to the latest figures from the Hospital Authority.

Psychiatric patients under 18 who were treated in hospitals under Hospital Authority management jumped from 26,740 in the financial year of 2014/15 to a projected 36,380 patients in 2018/19, according to the written replies from the Food and Health Bureau to the Legislative Council.

Psychiatric patients included people diagnosed with the autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, behavioral and emotional disorders, schizophrenic spectrum disorder or depression.

Among those diagnosed, the biggest increase seen was in patients with depression. That number increased from 390 in the year 2014/15 to 850 projected for the year 2018/19.

There are 12,410 young patients with autism and 14,610 with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), increases of 48% and 55% respectively over the five year period.

With the rise of new cases, patients whose conditions are classed as stable are forced to wait longer to receive hospital psychiatric treatment. In Kowloon East, this reportedly means patients have to wait around 2.5 years for treatment.

Dr Fanny Lam Wan-fan of Hong Kong Developmental Pediatrics and Child Neurology Center said about 20 to 30% of children with ADHD or autism would develop depression later in life, especially those who were not diagnosed early, Ming Pao Daily reported.

She advised the government to devote more resources to promote mental health education in maternity and child health centers, and to carry out assessment of early autism risk among children aged one to two.

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