SINGAPORE — Stress levels in Singapore have increased steadily since 2021, with close to nine in 10 people (87 per cent) reporting that they felt stressed this year — seven percentage points more than the global average, a new study published on Tuesday (Oct 31) has found.
Respondents were given three options on how they would rate their stress levels: “stressed but manageable” (71 per cent), “stressed but not manageable” (16 per cent) and “not stressed at all” (13 per cent).
Gen Z’ers, those aged between 18 and 24, made up the highest proportion of those who felt stressed (90 per cent) among respondents across all age groups.
These findings came from the Cigna Healthcare Vitality Study 2023, which surveyed 10,800 respondents in 12 markets, including 1,000 from Singapore, between May and June 2023. The study posed questions about one’s physical and mental well-being, stress levels and views on corporate support for health.
According to the report, the percentage of Singaporeans who reported feeling stressed went up from 85 and 86 per cent in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
While the figure for those dealing with “manageable” stress remained constant at 71 per cent since 2021, those who felt they could not manage the stress increased steadily from 14 to 15 per cent from 2021 to 2022, up to this year’s 16 per cent.
In comparison with the other Asian markets surveyed, the percentage of Singaporeans dealing with stress that was “not manageable” in 2023 was lower than Hong Kong (19 per cent), but twice as high as mainland China (8 per cent).
Peter, a 26-year-old management trainee at a shipping company, told TODAY that he was all but surprised at the study’s findings.
“In Singapore, we were taught from an early age that all we had was human capital. So it’s understandable that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be good at what we do,” said Peter, who wanted to go by a pseudonym as he was not authorised by his firm to speak to the media.
Agreeing, 28-year-old Mr Gareth Tan, who works in the education sector, believed that the country has a culture of competition and productivity which may have caused what he coined an “anxiety culture” that permeates various aspects of society and leads to stress in people.
Mr Tan added that the prevalence of social media, negative news, and rising cost of living may also have contributed to these results.
FEW S’POREANS HAVE HIGH VITALITY
The Cigna Healthcare study aimed to measure people’s levels of vitality, defined by the global health firm as “the intangible sense of feeling alive and alert, and in command of our lives and energy”.
“Having vitality leads to a wider range of positive outcomes. From resilience, improved performance at work and at home, to reducing chronic pain, smoking and risk of heart disease,” said its chief executive Raymond Ng.
Mr Ng said that the study measured someone’s vitality by asking its respondents a series of 35 questions to gauge their well-being across eight dimensions: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual.
The average score was then calculated and rescaled to 100 to create a “vitality score”, using which respondents were grouped into low, medium and high vitality groups.
Based on these calculations, the Cigna study found that only one in 10 Singaporeans reported high levels of vitality. This is lower than the Asia Pacific average of 14 per cent, and twice as low as the global average of 20 per cent.
Other pertinent findings from the study include:
Indicators of ‘Vitality’
- Almost four in 10 respondents said that they actively choose to prioritise their physical health (38 per cent)
- The same percentage of people said they know places they can “always go” to feel safe and well (38 per cent)
- Around three in 10 Singaporeans said they look forward to each new day (32 per cent)
- A similar percentage said they felt capable of managing their emotions (31 per cent),
- Three in 10 Singaporeans said they have all the skills and tools necessary to live a healthy life, and the freedoms and opportunities to financially support themselves
Causes of Financial Stress
- Three in five Singaporeans cited the cost of living caused by global inflation as a reason they were feeling stressed
- Similarly, almost seven in 10 said that inflation has made it “too expensive to stay healthy” (67 per cent)
- Two in five said their stress was caused by an “uncertainty about the future” (41 per cent) and their own “personal finance” (40 per cent)
Views on Employer Support
- Three in five employees said they wish they had more support from their employer to live a healthier life (61 per cent)
- Two in three Singaporeans wanted flexible time off or flexible work arrangements (66 per cent) as part of their company’s health and well-being program
- Three in five wanted a private health insurance plan (63 per cent), and one in three wanted more mental health support (34 per cent)
- In contrast, subsidised gym memberships — which the report said was “perhaps the most traditional form of health support from employers” — was only mentioned by a quarter of Singaporeans surveyed (26 per cent)