Singaporeans are sleep-deprived and do not exercise enough: Survey

PHOTO: Singaporeans are sleep-deprived and do not exercise enough: Survey

SINGAPORE - While Singaporeans are living longer, many are spending more years in poor health - combating modern-day health threats such as excessive time spent online, pollution and expanding waistlines.

This trend was revealed by AIA Singapore, through a study which surveyed more than 10,200 adults across 15 markets in the Asia-Pacific on a broad range of health issues.

Its 2013 AIA Healthy Living Index found that Singaporeans gave themselves a 6.6 out of 10 rating on how satisfied they are with their health overall, below the regional average of seven.

Moreover, three in four Singaporeans indicated that their health is not as good as it was five years ago, even among the younger age group of 18 to 29 years old.

The survey also showed that Singapore remains in the lower cluster of markets in terms of Healthy Living scores. Singapore's score ranked 10th out of the 15 markets surveyed. Singapore scored 59 out of a 100 - a marginal two points improvement over its 2011 score.

The region average is 62, about the same as 61 two years ago.

The survey also revealed that Singaporeans are facing new modern-day health threats, such as screen addiction, sleep deprivation, food safety and pollution.

While two in three Singapore adults agreed that spending time online and social networking are becoming addictive, almost three in four admitted that they find it hard to break this habit.

The researchers said that too much time spent on electronic devices was seen as having a negative impact on the health of Singaporeans. Three in four Singaporeans acknowledged that too much screen time affects their posture, and the same percentage said it prevents them from getting enough sleep and exercise.

This problem is likely to worsen given the expected rise in internet activity as well as a more sedentary lifestyle among Singaporeans, the paper said.

Singaporeans spend 36 minutes less time exercising a week compared to the regional average. In a year, Singaporeans exercise 31.2 hours less than their regional counterparts.

Furthermore, less than half of Singaporean adults have had a check-up in the last 12 months, which is lower than the regional average of 53 per cent.

As for what other factors they feel impact their health, 71 per cent of the Singapore respondents expressed concern about air pollution fanned by the annual haze problems. Singaporeans also said that they are concerned about water and land pollution, as well as a new form of pollution caused by the improper disposal of electronic devices.

In addition, the survey found that 75 per cent of Singaporeans are anxious about food containing harmful ingredients, in view of the various food-related scandals globally. Seven in 10 said that they are concerned that labels may not always be accurate, and 66 per cent said they worry that the food they buy may have gone bad.

Encouragingly, the study revealed that many Singaporeans are aware of the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle and are trying to follow the basics - drinking more water (84 per cent) or eating more fruits and vegetables (76 per cent).

About half also indicated that they will try to reduce consumption of sweets and snacks, consume less salt and eat less processed food.

Almost all Singaporeans agreed that more can be done to improve their health, particularly in the areas of physical activity and regular health screening.

Another consistent finding in both the 2011 and 2013 surveys is that the majority of Singaporeans believe employers can and should help their employees lead healthier lives.

The top three ways which companies can help are by providing free health checks, not putting employees under undue stress and ensuring reasonable workloads.

yamadak@sph.com.sg