Singaporeans' mental health still strained from financial pressures

Those lacking workplace flexibility have low scores: index

Singaporeans' mental health still strained from financial pressures

The mental health of Singaporeans registered a slight improvement this year, but they remain "significantly strained" due to financial pressure from inflation, according to the latest Mental Health Index (MHI) from TELUS Health.

The overall MHI score of Singaporeans reached 61.6 in January 2023, a 1.1-point improvement from the 60.5 in September 2022. This is based on a scale from 0 to 100, where a score below 49 indicates distress and a score between 50 and 79 is considered strained.

The index, which is based on a survey among 1,000 Singaporeans, attributed the current mental health score on inflation taking a toll on wellbeing and relationships.

"Financial wellbeing is highly correlated with mental wellbeing; as financial wellbeing improves, so do mental health scores," said Jamie MacLennan, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of APAC at TELUS Health, in a statement.

According to the findings, managers have a slightly lower mental health score (62.1) than non-managers (61.8). Employees working for companies with 501 to 1,000 staff members also have the lowest mental health score (58.8).

Measures against financial pressure

To address their financial woes, the respondents said they took the following measures:

  • Cut discretionary spending (65%)
  • Stayed at home more (41%)
  • Cut back on expenses related to their health (29%)
  • Cut back on prescription medication (13%)

The findings should encourage the government to address the cost-of-living crisis that is impacting the wellbeing of Singaporeans, according to MacLennan.

The government has been encouraging employers since last year to raise wages to recognise their contribution during the pandemic and compensate for the wage cuts and freezes they experienced over the past years.

The Ministry of Manpower has called on employers to implement the flexible wage system, where employers are able to reduce wage costs during slowdowns and reward staff when business is good.

As of late, the government has been announcing wage increases for various low-income earners, such as food service workers, under the new Progressive Wage Model.

Remote work

Meanwhile, the report also found that the 30% of employees who don't have flexibility in the workplace have the lowest mental health score (59.4).

For those who can work flexibly (28%), they have a mental health score of 62.5 that is slightly higher than the national average.

For those who have experience with remote work, they cited the following benefits:

  • Able to attend to personal issues as needed (60%)
  • Saves money (55%)
  • Better work-life balance (54%)
  • Able to get more done / fewer hours needed for the same amount of work (36%)
  • Avoid bad workplace culture (28%)
  • Able to work more hours (27%)
  • Avoid co-worker interactions or conflict with other people (26%)
  • Able to work an extra job to supplement income (21%)

They also cited the following disadvantages:

  • Harder to get things done as a team (38%)
  • Less social interaction (38%)
  • Blurring of work and life (37%)
  • Feeling more isolated (29%)
  • Concern about not having the same support or career advantages as those in the workplace (25%)
  • Increased distractions (25%)
  • Poor work setup (23%)
  • Bored more often (19%)
  • Lower productivity (16%)
  • Less ideation/innovation/team problem solving (15%)

Singapore, dubbed as one of the "champions" of hybrid work arrangements in the Asia-Pacific region, has been encouraging employers to embrace flexible work arrangements.

HR professionals have also been receiving training from the Singapore National Employers Federation on implementing hybrid work and after-hours communication policies.

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