Feeling stressed right now? You’re not alone – Singapore forks out billions of dollars a year to treat stress-related medical problems, a new global report on stress in eight countries has found.
The report, published in November by health insurance firm Cigna, looked at the costs of treating stress in Singapore, the US, UK, Australia, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, the UAE, and South Korea.
For local findings, the report took data from the Ministry of Health, National Healthcare Group Polyclinics, SingHealth, Raffles Medical and Parkway Holdings.
In total, Singaporeans were estimated to have spent a grand total of US$2.3 billion (S$3.1 billion) seeking direct medical help for stress-related illnesses a year – nearly one-fifth of the country’s annual healthcare spending, the report said.
Calling these estimates “inherently conservative”, it added that the actual figures would likely be far higher after taking into account indirect healthcare costs caused by stress.
The report identified stress-related illnesses as stress-related mental issues, stress manifesting as medically unexplained conditions, and physical symptoms commonly associated with stress, including irritable bowel syndrome or lower back pain.
It defined these illnesses based on medical research in 500 peer-reviewed journal articles on the impact of stress on people’s health.
Stress-related illnesses caused over 160,000 hospital stays and over 3 million hospital visits for treatment annually in Singapore, the report said.
It also accounted for 240,000 Accident & Emergency department admissions, or every one in five cases.
According to the report, one in every three GP visits here was linked to stress-related conditions, totalling 11 million appointments a year.
Based on the findings, it added that hospitals here could free up more beds by teaching staff to detect and manage patients with stress conditions, and working to identify patients with stress-related illnesses earlier the treatment process.