Deteriorating health a No. 1 concern among Singaporeans

PHOTO: Deteriorating health a No. 1 concern among Singaporeans

SINGAPORE - 71 per cent of Singaporeans are concerned about deteriorating health in their old age, according to new research from Manulife.

Unaffordable healthcare costs are their next big worry at 55 per cent, followed by the inability to maintain their current standard of living at 44 per cent.

The research is part of the Manulife Investor Sentiment Index (MISI) quarterly survey based on 500 online interviews in each market of Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, and Singapore; in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines it is conducted face-to-face. Respondents are middle class to affluent investors, aged 25 years and above who are the primary decision maker of financial matters in the household and currently have investment products.

According to MISI, the results show that Singaporeans are more concerned about ageing and worsening health due to old age more than anywhere else in the region. In Asia, 64 per cent are concerned about deteriorating health, 31 per cent are concerned that healthcare will be unaffordable, 33 per cent are worried they will not be able to maintain current standard of living. 

While three quarters of Singapore investors consider themselves to be fairly healthy, on average they expect recurring long-term healthcare expenses to set in from about 59 years old. 

Almost three quarters (72%) of investors expect that their medical needs during retirement will be taken care of by public medical services. This reliance is particularly strong among those closer to retirement - respondents below the age of 35 expect a higher reliance on private healthcare.

However, despite the widespread expectation of support from the public sector, Singaporeans anticipate that during retirement, healthcare and medical expenses will account for 13 per cent of their monthly expenses, second only to household expenses and daily necessities (19%). At present, healthcare expenses account for 10 per cent of respondents' monthly income.

President and CEO of Manulife Singapore, Ms Annette King said: "During the past ten years, per capita healthcare expenditure in Singapore has risen by 15 per cent a year on average (according to World Health Organisation) plus they aren't factoring in the possibility of being hit with costly chronic diseases like cancer or heart disease."

In Singapore, one out of every three deaths is a result of heart disease or stroke, according to the Ministry of Health. Meanwhile, the number of people diagnosed with cancer has risen 15 per cent in the five years to the end of 2012 when it reached over 12,000 cases, according to the National Cancer Centre Singapore.

Healthcare costs in Singapore, meanwhile, have risen faster than inflation in recent years; up about 40 per cent since 2000, compared to just over 25 per cent for consumer prices, according to CEIC Data. Total healthcare costs in the Asia-Pacific region have been projected to grow at over 8 per cent a year through to 2020, Swiss Re's data states.

Research also shows that Singaporeans recognise the health issues ahead and are taking steps in order to be prepared. 3 in 5 have a personal health or medical insurance plan, and of these, two thirds say the insurance is enough to meet their current needs. Two thirds of respondents say they will purchase, renew or maintain their personal health insurance during retirement. However, the findings also show that a further 17 per cent wish they could but believe it won't be possible - they believe that either their policy will not be renewable after a certain age or that there is no insurance policy available to cater for their needs.

Although more than four in ten expect their spending level to increase over the course of their retirement, 59 per cent of Singaporeans think they will be able to maintain their current living standard, said Manulife. 

maryanns@sph.com.sg