August 7, 2017

72 percent of employers in Singapore consider stress and mental health an issue affecting productivity, yet only 51 percent have emotional and psychological wellness programmes in place, according to the APAC Benefits Strategy Study 2017 by Aon, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement, and health solutions. It is also alarming to note that only 62 percent of organisations in Singapore have plans to implement such programmes in the future—6 points lower than the APAC average.

The 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.

Encouragingly, APAC Benefits Strategy Study 2017 found that 74 percent of Singapore employers have physical wellness programmes in place to help prevent the onset of these chronic issues.

Aon senior clinician, Dr. Menandro Sandoval, said: “Through our analysis of client medical plan data, we are able to identify patterns. For instance, 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 positive impact.”

Tim Dwyer, CEO of Aon Health & Benefits, Asia Pacific, emphasised: “Employers in Asia 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.”

The inaugural Aon APAC Benefits Strategy Study 2017 surveyed 461 respondents across 22 countries and 24 industries, seeking to understand how HR practitioners are executing on their benefits strategy in today’s challenging business environment.