MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Singaporeans Prioritise Health Over Luxury: A Post-Pandemic Spending Trend

In recent times, the narrative of health being the ultimate wealth has never resonated more profoundly, especially in the heart of Singapore. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst, prompting many to re-evaluate healthcare spending in Singapore, with a significant inclination towards health and wellness over luxury and opulence. This paradigm shift is not only a reactive measure but signifies a more insightful and enduring change in spending behaviours amongst Singaporeans. The narrative is simple yet impactful – health is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that dictates the quality of life.

A Timely Realisation

The pandemic has starkly highlighted the impermanence and unpredictability of life, ushering a newfound appreciation for health and wellness. 

A recent survey by insurer AIA Singapore illustrated this shift, with around 30% of respondents valuing health and the ability to partake in enjoyable activities over the accumulation of material wealth. The allure of luxury items and high-life experiences has dimmed in comparison to the indispensable value of good health.

The Economic Prism

Economic uncertainties exacerbated by the pandemic have invariably played a crucial role in this transition. Rising inflation and the escalating costs of daily necessities have nudged many towards more prudent spending. Remarkably, the health expenditure as a share of GDP for Singapore escalated from 3.2% in 2001 to 6.1% in 2020, indicating a steady incline in health-centric spending over the years​. This indicates a nearly doubled proportion of GDP dedicated to health expenditures over two decades, reflecting a significant shift in spending priorities, possibly due to rising healthcare costs, ageing population, or government initiatives to enhance healthcare services.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) has been committed to ensuring good and affordable healthcare for all citizens, which could be a contributing factor to the rising healthcare expenditure over the years​​.

The economic uncertainties exacerbated by the pandemic may have played a pivotal role in this escalation of healthcare spending. This aligns with global trends where many countries have had to bolster their healthcare systems to cope with the unprecedented crisis. Rising inflation and escalating costs of daily necessities have perhaps also nudged many towards more prudent spending, with an increased focus on health-centric expenditures.

The Wellness Spectrum

The well-established link between financial wellness and mental health often spirals into a cycle where financial issues trigger stress and anxiety. In turn, this can exacerbate financial situations further. This connection especially stands out amongst individuals aged 25 to 44, who might be navigating significant financial milestones such as family planning and career advancement.

Poor financial habits, such as overspending and accumulating debt, can indeed be major stressors. Conversely, prudent financial management and a disciplined focus on health can significantly alleviate anxiety and foster overall well-being. Financial wellness education, for instance, can be an instrumental solution to mitigate financial stress. Mental health may be improved by providing essential financial management skills and behaviours. 

Employers, too, stand to benefit from promoting financial wellness amongst their workforce. Financial stress can lead to issues like absenteeism, high turnover, poorer relationships with co-workers, and lower quality work.

Furthermore, mental health and financial well-being are often viewed in isolation, despite their deep interconnection​. Chronic stress resulting from financial challenges is a common issue. This emphasises the importance of a holistic approach to well-being that encompasses both mental and financial wellness​​. 

A Future-Forward Approach

As Singapore steers through the post-pandemic landscape, the emphasis on health heralds a promising trend.  The lessons imbibed during this tumultuous period have the potential to shape policy, influence individual and societal choices, and engender a culture that values wellness over materialism.

The ongoing discourse around health and wealth accentuates a balanced approach, underlining the symbiotic relationship between the two. It invites a reevaluation of personal and societal values, nudging individuals and communities towards a more health-centric ethos.

References

  1. MOH | Government Health Expenditure and Healthcare Financing. (n.d.). https://www.moh.gov.sg/resources-statistics/singapore-health-facts/government-health-expenditure-and-healthcare-financing#:~:text=Government,Singaporeans%2C%20appropriate%20to%20their%20needs
  2. C. (2023, October 9). More in Singapore choosing to spend on health than on luxury items: Poll. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/business/invest/more-choosing-to-spend-on-health-than-on-luxury-items-poll
  3. Thielen, P. (2023, March 14). The Connection Between Financial Well-Being And Mental Health. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesfinancecouncil/2023/03/14/the-connection-between-financial-well-being-and-mental-health/?sh=1a3e9e7ea630
  4. Large Number of Americans Reported Financial Anxiety and Stress Even Before the Pandemic | FINRA.org. (2021, April 28). https://www.finra.org/media-center/newsreleases/2021/large-number-americans-reported-financial-anxiety-and-stress-even#:~:text=WASHINGTON%20,a%20new%20report%20published%20today

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