In Focus
HR & EDUCATION | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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72% of Singapore firms affected by workers' mental stress

Only 1 in 2 firms have emotional and psychological programmes in place.

For Singapore firms, mental health issue and stress increasingly impact the productivity of their employees.

According to Aon's APAC Benefits Strategy Study 2017, 72% of employers are seeing these mental issues a concern, yet only 51% have emotional and psychological wellness programmes in place.

The study revealed that only 62% of firms have plans to implement such programmes in the future—6 points lower than the Asia Pacific average.

Aon cited that United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) has defined stress as a ‘global epidemic’ and dubbed it the ‘silent killer’. It is a growing phenomenon in many Asian countries, especially those with advanced economies and where Western consumerism and lifestyles are prevalent such as Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.

In its early stages, the physical manifestations of stress include chronic issues such as back pain, fatigue, and headaches. There is also clear scientific evidence linking stress with depression, cardiovascular disease, and various cancers—resulting in economic impact related to absenteeism, lost productivity, staff turnover, workers’ compensation, medical insurance, and related expenses.

To counter this, the study found that 74% of Singapore employers have physical wellness programmes in place to help prevent the onset of these chronic issues.

Aon senior clinician Dr. Menandro Sandoval shared their analysis of their client medical plan data. He noted that a high proportion of visits to General Practitioner clinics for Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI) and various gastrointestinal illnesses are related to suppression of general resistance process, which can be attributed to mental health issues such as stress, depression, and anxiety.

"By identifying this root cause, we can help employers develop risk management programmes that address employee health holistically and create a positive impact," Sandoval stated.

Meanwhile, Aon Health & Benefits, Asia Pacific CEO Tim Dwyer noted that employers in the region have proactively implemented physical wellness programmes, but have been unwilling to promote mental health ones.

"However, our recent study showed that Singapore employers now view their employees’ health and well-being—both physical and mental—as a top 3 focus area. Meanwhile, across Asia, Aon has made significant investments in technology, resources, and people that can transform how organisations think about their employees’ physical, mental, financial, and emotional well-being and we will continue to develop solutions that address our clients’ holistic employee well-being needs.”
 

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