Chronic stress costing Singapore US$2.3bn annually

Health systems must emphasize preventive measures in dealing with stress, study finds

Chronic stress costing Singapore US$2.3bn annually

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

An insurer-led study has found that chronic stress costs Singapore around US$2.3 billion each year, or 18% of its total healthcare spending. Several other Asian economies also spend billions on stress-related illnesses.

The report, titled ‘Chronic Stress: Are we reaching health system burn out?’, was conducted by Asia Care Group on behalf of health insurer Cigna. It examined the impact of stress-related conditions in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Out of the nine economies studied, Australia had the highest proportion of healthcare spend on chronic stress at 19%. Singapore was at second place with 18%, followed by Hong Kong at 17.6%. Taiwan was at fourth with 13%, then the United Arab Emirates at 12.8%. In Hong Kong’s case, it meant spending of almost US$3.8 billion per year on stress-related conditions.

According to the study, as many as 25% of hospital admissions, 19% of emergency department attendances, 35% of primary care visits, and 12% of outpatient attendances are likely to be the result of conditions driven by stress. This is a significant burden on all parts of health systems, at a time when they are already overstretched, and costs are expected to continue to rise.

Chronic stress is associated with many mental and physical health issues, such as depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome and lower-back pain.

The study observed that hospital-led health systems spent considerably more on stress-related conditions than systems in which strong primary care is in place. This, it said, emphasises the need to consider how preventative, community-based services could be better used to manage-down the clinical and financial risks posed by excessive stress.

“Despite experiencing signs of illness caused by chronic stress, many people do not seek medical help straightaway, waiting until they experience more severe physical symptoms,” said Julian Mengual, CEO of Southeast Asia and regional health solutions for Cigna International Markets. “Healthcare leaders, government, employers and individuals must come together to encourage people to talk to someone early and in finding solutions.”

In an earlier study, Cigna found that globally, 87% of workers reported that they feel stressed and 12% said that they feel their stress is unmanageable. Previous studies have also established the productivity losses from stress – from absenteeism to reduction in tax revenue.

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