Failing health top worry about old age: Survey

Seventy-one per cent of those surveyed by Manulife pointed to increasing illness as they age as the top concern, with costs of paying for health care the next biggest nightmare.
PHOTO: Failing health top worry about old age: Survey

Failing health spooks Singaporeans more than any other concern they have about old age, according to new findings by financial services group Manulife.

It found that 71 per cent of those surveyed pointed to increasing illness as they age as the top concern with costs of paying for health care the next biggest nightmare.

That's the highest in Asia, followed by Japan at 70 per cent, China at 69 per cent and Taiwan at 68 per cent - significantly above the 64 per cent regional average.

The poll, which was taken in the first three months of the year, surveyed reasonably well-off to affluent investors over 25 who are the primary decision makers of financial matters in the household and who have investment products.

It showed that 55 per cent of Singapore respondents are worried health care will become unaffordable when they retire.

They trail only Malaysian respondents, with 56 per cent of those across the Causeway worried about paying for health care. The regional average is 31 per cent.

An inability to maintain their current standard of living is the third top anxiety for respondents here, with 44 per cent expressing this fear compared with the regional average of 33 per cent.

Although 75 per cent of Singapore respondents regard themselves as fairly healthy, they expect recurring long-term health- care expenses to set in from about age 59.

Singaporeans are not waiting helplessly for the inevitable to happen and are proactively taking measures to prepare for ill health should they be stricken, according to the quarterly Manulife Investor Sentiment Index survey.

It found that about 60 per cent of investors have a personal health or medical insurance plan, while about 67 per cent said they will buy or renew their personal health insurance during retirement.

The poll noted as well that 72 per cent of investors also expect that their medical needs during retirement will be taken care of by public medical services.

Despite the widespread expectation of support from the public sector, Singapore respondents expect health care and medical expenses to account for 13 per cent of their monthly expenses.

The only other item they expect to spend more money on is household expenses and daily necessities, making up 19 per cent of their monthly income.

Manulife said health-care costs here have risen about 40 per cent since 2000, much faster than the 25 per cent increase in consumer prices.

Ms Annette King, president and chief executive of Manulife Singapore, said: "Singaporeans recognise that health-care costs will rise as they get older but they are misguided if they think that health-care costs will account for a similar slice of the household budget in retirement as it does now.

"During the past 10 years, per capita health-care expenditure in Singapore has risen by 15 per cent a year on average plus they aren't factoring in the possibility of being hit with costly chronic diseases like cancer or heart disease."

This article was first published on May 23, 2014.
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