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Sixty-two percent of older Singaporeans rated their own health as very good or excellent – Singapore study

A comprehensive Duke-NUS study reveals solutions towards improving all-round healthcare for Singapore's elderly.

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In a study surveying 4,549 community-dwelling Singapore citizens and permanent residents aged 60 years and above, findings indicate that 62% of older Singaporeans rated their own health as good, very good or excellent, with a similar proportion across males and females and ethnic groups.

The research dubbed as the THE SIGNS (Transitions in Health, Employment, Social Engagement, and Intergenerational Transfers in Singapore) Study was led by Assistant Professor Rahul Malhotra, head of research at the Center for Ageing Research and Education at Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Medical School.

The research team paid particular attention to factors influencing health, well-being, activity and productivity levels. These factors included physical health and healthcare use, psychological wellbeing, social networks, social participation, intergenerational transfers within the family, volunteerism, lifelong learning, work and retirement.

Prof Malhotra said that “all these factors affect older Singaporeans’ wellbeing, which in turn affects their ability to participate and contribute within their families, communities and the larger Singapore society as a whole.”

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Among the study’s finds were that senior-age folk who have lower levels of personal well-being need more healthcare. Loneliness — an element of psychological well-being — turned out to be a reason why the elderly reporting this state of being do not use as much healthcare as their peers who do not feel lonely.

On lifelong learning, only 13% of older Singaporeans — mainly women –were found to have taken a course in the last 12 months of the survey. Major barriers to accessing this health-maintenace activity include age, lower socio-economic status and poor health.

“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,” said Dr Angelique Chan Wei-Ming , executive director at the Centre for Ageing Research and Education, Duke-NUS Medical School.

Among the respondents to the survey, approximately 38% have been diagnosed with three or more chronic diseases, with high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes and joint pain or nerve pain being the most commonly self-reported chronic physical ailments.

Likewise, around 42% of older Singaporeans were pre-obese, indicating that lifestyle influences on wellbeing need to be examined more closely. In terms of psychological health, about 12% of older Singaporeans had symptoms of clinical depression and it has been found that this proportion increases with age.

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