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October 21, 2020

Survey Reveals Hongkongers Obtain Happiness from Food During Pandemic

Around 60% gained weight and over 40% ate more snacks during pandemic Potato chips, biscuits and ice cream become top 3 pandemic comfort snacks No exercise for over 40% locals People may get more exposed to diabetes risks due to Imbalanced diet and lack of exercise

Hong Kong, October 21, 2020 – In the latest “Changing Eating Habits of Hongkongers during COVID-19” survey released by Sun Life Hong Kong Limited (“the Company” or “Sun Life Hong Kong”), problems of imbalanced diet and lack of exercise among Hongkongers have been worsened during pandemic. 70% of employed respondents were assigned to work from home by their employers during the pandemic, the much longer stay at home has since changed their eating habits. More than half (55%) replied that they gained weight during pandemic.

The survey revealed that almost three-fourth of Hongkongers (72%) ordered takeaway during the pandemic, with one-third (33%) have ordered more frequently than ever. Among the most popular takeaway order is fried noodle or rice (52%), followed by fast food (45%) and authentic dishes (44%). Such findings reflect that as people are required to work from home and hang out less during the pandemic, takeaway has been instrumental in catering their everyday dining needs.

Commissionsed to ESDlife by Sun Life Hong Kong, 916 local respondents aged between 20 and 55 were interviewed through online questionnaire in September 2020. Haymans Fung, Chief Marketing and Digital Officer of Sun Life Hong Kong Limited, said, “Health is priceless. We are committed to promoting a healthy lifestyle to the community and encouraging Hongkongers to adopt healthy lifestyle and habits in daily hustle and bustle. This survey not only gives us a full picture on the changing eating habits of Hongkongers during the pandemic, but we also hope it serves as a reminder to the community on addressing the importance of maintaining good health and living healthier lives.”

Nearly 60% Hongkongers seek happiness from food to overcome depression during pandemic

43% of respondents admitted that they consumed more snacks in this period. Among the top 3 favourite snacks of Hongkongers during the pandemic are potato chips (56%), biscuits (46%) and ice cream (39%), by which respondents can eat up to 3 times a week on average (see Table 1 and Table 2). For reasons behind eating more snacks, while 58% stated “eating snacks can make himself or herself happy and alleviate the distress of staying at home”, younger respondents tend to depend on snacks as a form of self-relief. Snacks are not necessities at all but they are always tempting; as 70% of respondents pointed out that snacks were preferred choice when have cravings, 43% of female respondents stated the growing tendency of buying more snacks is a result of frequent shopping at supermarket during the pandemic.

35% Hongkongers enjoyed cooking besides preparing regular meals; multiple meals resulted as 95% increased to 4-5 dinings a day.

In addition to snacks, 35% of respondents cooked more often besides preparing regular meals. The survey revealed female respondents prefer baking cakes (38%) and Chinese dim sum (37%) is the top choice for male respondents (37%), with an average of nearly 3 times a week. As the trend of growing appetite beyond regular meals is more evident and having multiple meals becomes a habit of Hongkongers. Among them, 95% said they had 4 to 5 dinings a day during pandemic. For the main reason behind multiple meals, male respondents (54%) mostly explained that working at home means there is no fixed dining time; female repsondents (52%) mostly replied that food is their dose for relieving depression during pandemic, and female has a higher dependency level than male in terms of food as a relief.

41% Hongkongers did not exercise; respondents looking forward to sumptuous post-pandemic feast.

The survey found that Hongkongers did not adjust their exercise workload during the pandemic in response to growing appetite, even 41% of respondents admitted that they had no exercise habits at all and only 8% of respondents exercised for 150 minutes or more a week. Despite the fact that older respondents have developed more exercise habits, respondents without exercise habits remain the majority in all age groups (see Table 3). The underperformance of diet and exercise balance however does not concern Hongkongers, with 63% are looking forward to sumptuous post-pandemic feast like buffet or all-you-can-eat once the pandemic becomes stable.

As imbalanced diet and severe lack of exercise are dual factors attributed to higher likeliness of weight gain among Hongkongers, registered dietitian Vivien Lau also highlighted the higher risk exposure to diabetes. According to survey results, an adult will have an additional intake of over 6,100 kcal per month by eating 3 pieces of cake and 3 packs of medium-sized potato chips every week; for an adult weighing about 60 kg, it requires nearly 11 hours of running per month to fully consume such additional intake. If an adult does not have any exercise habits, the additional intake may translate into a weight gain of nearly 2 lbs per month, or an estimated gain of over 10 lbs since the pandemic outbreak.

Hongkongers are generally not knowledgeble of diabetes; dietitian calls for healthy balanced diet and more exercise to reduce health risks.

Being one of the common chronic diseases in Hong Kong, many Hongkongers still show misunderstandings about diabetes and think diabetes equals to sugar consumption. This is reflected by the findings that 77% and 74% of respondents mistakenly believe frequent consumption of sugar-rich drinks and foods will cause diabetes, while over half of Hongkongers think diabetic patients should avoid eating rice (54%) and get rid of all foods containing sugar and starch (56%).

According to Lau, overweight or obesity and lack of exercise play major roles causing Type 2 diabetes, sugar intake is not the sole factor. Since there is excessive body fat on people who are overweight or have obesity, insulin resistance may happen on body cells, resulting a higher blood sugar level. Every 9 out of 10 Type 2 diabetes patients are also suffering from overweight or obesity, with the condition namely “diabesity”; these patients are more prone to diabetic complications and their death risk is 7 times higher than normal adults.  To maintain a healthy blood sugar level, Lau also recommended eating carbohydrates with low glycemic index level for stabilizing blood sugar condition, coupled with cardio and resistance exercise to consume more calories and enhance body sensitivity to insulin.

Fung concluded, “We have long been a champion of diabetes prevention in the community. This year, initiatives are being carried out in various domains. These include a Pre-diabetes Control Management Program and the sponsorship of Is Something Wrong with Granny?! Picture book. As we firmly believe a healthy living since childhood is the stepping stone to a truly healthy life. The picture book is to encourage children to follow Granny for choosing nutritious food based on nutrition labels and establish the rationale of properly understanding diabetes.”


Photo caption: Haymans Fung, Chief Marketing and Digital Officer of Sun Life Hong Kong Limited (left) and Vivien Lau, Registered Dietitian (right).


Table 1: Changes of eating habits of Hongkongers during COVID-19

  Changes of eating habits Percentage
  1.  More snacks 43%
 2. More cooking besides preparing regular meals 35%
 3. More afternoon tea or late-night supper 23%
 4. Multiple meals a day 18%

* Can choose multiple answers

Source: Sun Life Hong Kong’s “Changing Eating Habits of Hongkongers during COVID-19” survey.


Table 2: Hongkongers’ top 5 snacks during pandemic

Rank Snack(s) Percentage Average per week Calories / kcal(Every 100g)
  1.  Potato chips / prawn crackers 56% 3.2 times 530
 2. Biscuits / cookies 46% 3.7 times 410
 3. Ice cream 39% 2.7 times 210
 4. Chocolate 32% 3.3 times 540
 5. Cakes 31% 2.5 times 360

Source: Sun Life Hong Kong’s “Changing Eating Habits of Hongkongers during COVID-19” survey.

Healthy snack options recommended by registered dietitian Vivien Lau: Original flavoured nuts, sugar-free dried fruit or freeze-dried fruit slices, high fibre cereal bar, lower-calorie baked potato chips, salted popcorn.


Table 3: Exercise habits of Hongkongers during COVID-19

Age No exercise habits 150 mins or above / week
Under 25 67% 8%
25 – 29 48% 8%
30 – 34 46% 5%
35 – 39 43% 5%
40 – 44 42% 6%
45 – 49 35% 12%
50 or above 26% 15%

Source: Sun Life Hong Kong’s “Changing Eating Habits of Hongkongers during COVID-19” survey.


Table 4: Takeaway recommendations and healthy eating tips from registered dietitian Vivien Lau

Takeaway recommendations Healthy eating tips
  • Tomato and Beef Vermicelli Soup
  • Pork Liver Macaroni Soup
  • Preserved Potherb Mustard and Shredded Pork Vermicelli Soup

✓ Processed meats such as ham, sausage and luncheon meat contain more saturated fat. Excess consumption of saturated fat for a long period of time may affect body weight and  cardiovascular health. Fresh ingredients such as shredded and sliced meat are highly recommended meat options.

 ✓ To reduce oil absorption, replace scrambled eggs with poached eggs or fried eggs and choose toast without butter

  • Chicken Bún Thang
  • Tomato and Seafood Spaghetti Soup
  • Beef Shank Noodle Soup
 ✓ Noodle soup served in restaurant usually contain more sodium. Drinking the soup base is thus less recommended. Also ensure to drink enough water for excreting excess sodium from the body. Excess consumption of sodium for a long period of time may affect blood pressure, and the body is more prone to edema.
  • Hainanese Chicken (skin removed) with Rice.
  • Roasted Spring Chicken (skin removed) with Baked Potato.
  • Saba Shioyaki Teishoku
✓ We should eat skin, brisket and bone of meat less because they contain more fat. Rich in protein and with less saturated fat, fish and seafood are better meat options.


About Sun Life

Sun Life is a leading international financial services organization providing insurance, wealth and asset management solutions to individual and corporate Clients. Sun Life has operations in a number of markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Bermuda. As of June 30 , 2020, Sun Life had total AUM of C$1,122 billion. For more information please visit

Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF.

Sun Life Financial Inc. is the holding company of Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada. Sun Life Hong Kong Limited is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada.

All information contained in this press release shall only be used as general reference and general health knowledge for sharing purposes. The statistical data of this press release is obtained from a survey conducted by a Survey agent commissioned by Sun Life Hong Kong.All information contained in this Press release is not intended to provide any forms of guarantee or medical advice, and does not constitute a solicitation of an offer or offer, and shall not be regarded as the basis for any contract, to sell or to purchase any insurance products.The view contained in this Press release may be changed at any time without prior notice.Information is provided base on sources believed to be reliable, Sun Life Hong Kong Limited (a company incorporated in Bermuda with limited liability), its associated companies and their directors and employees (collectively “Sun Life Hong Kong”) gives no express or implied warranty, guarantee or represent its accuracy, effectiveness, completeness of the same.Sun Life Hong Kong accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage arising from use of any information or opinion herein. This document is owned by Sun Life Hong Kong. Modification or change is not allowed without the Sun Life Hong Kong’s prior consent.This press release is intended to be distributed in Hong Kong only and shall not be construed as an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy or provision of any products of Sun Life Hong Kong outside Hong Kong.

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