Singapore—A new study is showing that the proportion of people over the age of 60 who have three or even more chronic diseases almost doubled from 2009 to 2017. Moreover, there are more older adults in Singapore who are reporting having a harder time with daily activities.

The study shows that in 2009, 19.8 percent of people over 60 years of age reported that they were suffering from three or more chronic health conditions. In 2017, this number had risen to 37 percent.

The Duke-NUS Medical School’s Centre for Ageing Research and Education and the Ministry of Health is carrying out the Transitions in Health, Employment, Social Engagement, and Inter-generational Transfers in Singapore (Signs) Study, which “aims to understand patterns and determinants of successful ageing from a social and health perspective among older Singaporeans (aged 60 years and above),” according to the website of Duke-NUS Medical School.

The SIGNS Study is “a longitudinal study comprising of two waves of data collection” the first of which was carried out from 2015 to 2016, and the second from 2018 to 2019.
The second wave examines the physical and psychological health and wellbeing, utilization of healthcare, social participation and networks, retirement, work, volunteerism, and inter-generational transfers within the family.

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The results of a survey from the still-ongoing study of over 4,500 Singaporeans and permanent residents was released on May 7, Tuesday.

This study of patterns among older adults in Singapore is particularly relevant since experts say that by 2030, twenty-five percent of the country’s population will be comprised of people over 65 years old.

The Centre for Ageing Research and Education’s executive director Dr Angelique Chan said, “This study enables us to provide policymakers with evidence on how older Singaporeans are doing on various dimensions of their lives, which impact on their active and productive engagement in the wider community and society.”

Here are the top five chronic health conditions that were reported: high blood pressure; high blood cholesterol; cataract; joint pain, arthritis, rheumatism or nerve pain; and diabetes.

The Straits Times reports Dr Rahul Mahotra, the Centre’s head of research, as saying, “The fact that nearly a third of the respondents have three or more chronic health conditions is worrying.”

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He mentioned two possibilities to explain these alarming results.

“There could be two possibilities: the 2016/2017 cohort is more educated and have greater access to health facilities, and the Government has launched a lot of screening programmes, so a lot of them have benefited from that.

The other possibility is that it reflects a worsening health situation.”

With regards to the increasing struggle among older adults with daily activities as well, here is what the study found.

In 2009, 2.8 percent of the respondents reported having a hard time with one or two daily activities, in 2017, the number was around 4 percent.

Also, in 2009, only 3.5 percent of the respondents said they had a hard time with 3 more activities, but in 2017, the number had risen to 5 percent.

Interestingly, 13 percent of women said they had difficulties with ADLs (activity of daily living), while only 5 percent of men reported the same.

According to Dr Malhotra, “Having difficulty with an ADL is more reflective of the severity of the health condition, rather than the presence of the health condition, so it could be that more older Singaporeans today have more advanced stages of the disease.”

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He also said that beyond the age of 75, ADL troubles occur much more frequently./TISG

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