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People polled in Singapore find it too expensive to stay healthy: Cost-of-living survey

People polled in Singapore find it too expensive to stay healthy: Cost-of-living survey

Overall, inflation & the economy was the top concern for nearly half of the respondents - the highest proportion among all markets, followed by unemployment (14%) and healthcare (12%).

The impact of the growing global cost of living is continuing to hit people in Singapore hard in many different areas of life. Particularly, 64% of respondents in a new report by Cigna have indicated that rising inflation is making it too expensive to stay healthy.

The Staying Well amidst the Cost-Of-Living Crisis study surveyed 8,800 people in eight markets across the world, including 1,100 in Singapore, about the issues that worry them, their current state of wellbeing, and the support they need to live healthier lives, in order to better understand what these concerns are and how they are affecting people’s wellbeing

Overall, inflation and the economy came up as the number one concern for 47% of respondents in Singapore — the highest such proportion among all markets and significantly higher than the global average of 37%. The next biggest concerns in Singapore were unemployment (14%) and healthcare (12%).

As one of the top concerns, people are finding necessities such as healthcare hard to afford. With 64% indicating that inflation is making it too expensive to stay healthy, 72% also consider their ability to meet their own or their family’s medical needs as only "fair" (55%) or even "poor" (17%).

On a more positive note, while the most urgent concerns for people in Singapore include the rising cost of food and essentials, restaurant bills, entertainment, energy, fuel, and utilities, these concerns were noted to be stabilising. Fewer respondents expect a cost increase for these items in the next three months, compared to those who have seen an increase in the last three months.

Unfortunately, the same expectation does not extend to medical costs. Almost half of the respondents (48%) expect a cost increase in the next three months, while 40% have already seen an increase over the last three months. This sentiment possibly explains why healthcare is cited as among the greatest concerns in Singapore (12%) after inflation, the economy, and unemployment. 

Financial wellbeing ranks the lowest among respondents in Singapore

In the face of inflation, only 27% of people in Singapore described their current financial situation as "good", while 56% described it as "fair", and 16% as "bad". Given the overwhelming concern about rising costs, it comes as little surprise that people in Singapore rated financial wellbeing as their lowest area of wellbeing at the moment (other areas being family, physical, social, spiritual, and workplace).

Cost is not the only healthcare concern for people in Singapore; they also report difficulties in terms of access and experience.

Common challenges of healthcare access and experience in Singapore include:

  1. Getting an appointment quickly when sick (33%)
  2. Getting care at night and during weekends or holidays (22%)
  3. Finding a healthcare practitioner one can trust (22%)
  4. Finding a healthcare practitioner who listens (21%)

As a whole, the study revealed a snapshot of how the average respondent in Singapore perceived various aspects of wellbeing, against the global average:

  • Overall
    • Singapore: 35%
    • Global: 44%
  • Family
    • Singapore: 51%
    • Global: 59%
  • Financial
    • Singapore 29%
    • Global: 37%
  • Physical
    • Singapore: 35%
    • Global: 44%
  • Social
    • Singapore: 34%
    • Global: 47%
  • Spiritual
    • Singapore 33%
    • Global: 43%
  • Workplace
    • Singapore: 31%
    • Global: 43%

Against this backdrop of challenges, the study took a deeper look at virtual care as an efficient alternative to physical care, especially with people now being more familiar with the service. More than four in 10 people in Singapore (45%) have scheduled medical appointments digitally over the past two years. Further, 34% have accessed medical records online, and 28% have consulted with doctors by phone or virtually. As one might expect, youths and young adults (16-24 and 25-34 year-olds) use technology for healthcare more than the older groups.

Nearly half of Singapore respondents believe virtual and in-person consultations perform equally well in the areas of ease of arrangement (51%), general convenience (48%), being listened to and understood (49%), being given the right level of attention and time (49%), and even follow-up care (51%).

Nevertheless, more work is needed to encourage virtual consultation as only a minority believe it is better than in-person consultation, with in-person consultations being particularly trusted for their quality of assessment, it was noted.

Beyond physical health, rising concerns about the cost of living and healthcare can take a mental toll. A previous survey in 2022 revealed that the rising cost of living, uncertainty about the future, and concerns about personal finance were key stressors for 86% of respondents in Singapore, with 15% struggling to cope with stress. To cope, these respondents have tried one or more ways to improve their mental wellbeing:

  • The majority (67%) engaged in exercise and working out over the past year to improve mental well-being, which was followed by changing their diet (38%) and meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques (34%);
  • Some also took a natural approach to health (28%), and
  • Others also explored talking therapies, cognitive behavioural therapy, or hypnotherapy (15%).

From an employer's perspective, the study suggests that employers need to be aware of the impacts of the rising cost of living on employees and offer appropriate support. This support can come in the form of comprehensive health benefits or more empathetic workplace arrangements to help employees enhance various areas of their lives, including physical, financial, workplace, family, social, and spiritual wellbeing. 

About the survey

This research was conducted via an online survey between 3 and 31 January 2023 surveying a total of 8,800 respondents in Singapore and the following markets: Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the Netherlands, UAE, UK, and USA. The respondents were members of the general population, aged 16 to 65, representative of age, gender, and income. The survey also included expats, aged 16 to 65, currently residing in a country other than the country of citizenship.

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Lead image /  Cigna Staying Well amidst the Cost-Of-Living Crisis study

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