Digital lifestyle a double-edged sword for the health of Singaporeans

01 June 2016 dot 8-min read
AIA's 2016 Healthy Living Index Survey uncovers parents' unhealthy lifestyle habits are beginning to influence their children's health
Singapore, 1 June 2016 – Ranked 9th among 15 countries, Singapore's healthy living index score continues to be below regional average, according to AIA's 2016 Healthy Living Index Survey among 10,316 adults across the region, including 501 in Singapore. Singaporeans also continue to be much less satisfied with their own health as compared to others in the region. 
As Singapore remains one of the most digitally engaged countries across the region, the excessive screen time and corresponding health impacts are being reflected in their children, who also do not get enough exercise due to too much time spent online and playing video games. 
Additional screen time negatively impacting health of Singaporeans 
According to AIA's 2016 Healthy Living Index Survey, Singapore remains one of the most digitally engaged countries across the region, with Singaporeans spending an average of 3.7 hours online per day on non-work usage, much higher than the regional average of 3 hours. 
Approximately 7 in 10 (67%) in Singapore find it hard to break the habit of spending a lot of time in front of screens. In fact, more than 6 in 10 (62%) adults admit that they are addicted to social networking and the internet. This is despite knowing that they should spend less time online as the prolonged online time affects their posture (69%), prevents them from getting adequate exercise (69%) and prevents them from getting sufficient sleep (69%). 
Some of the key health concerns for Singaporean adults which can simply be addressed by a change in their lifestyle habits include: 
  • Being among the most sleep-deprived in the region, with a sleep gap (difference between desired and actual sleeping hours) of 1.3 hours, compared with the regional average of 1 hour.1
  • Not getting enough exercise, with an average of 2.6 hours of exercise per week compared with regional average of 3.0 hours.
  • 46% of adults in Singapore are pre-obese or obese, and 62% would like to lose weight, a significantly larger percentage than the regional average of 48%. On average, Singapore adults would like to shed a whopping 5.9kg from their current weight - a difficult goal to achieve with a sedentary lifestyle.
1 This is in line with the recent findings by University of Michigan scientists on the 'global sleep crisis'. More information here: 
Like parent, like child
A cause for concern in Singapore is that the unhealthy choices made by parents are influencing their children, the study found. 
Parents' excessive screen time and corresponding impact on their health are also reflected in their children's lifestyles. Approximately 7 in 10 (67%) parents in Singapore acknowledge that their children do not get enough exercise. Reasons that their children are not exercising include spending too much time online (43%) and spending too much time playing video games (33%), both higher than regional average. 
Parents who rate their own health more positively tend to be more satisfied with their children's health. On average, they rate their children's health 7.7 out of 10, compared to only 6.3 among parents who are less satisfied with their own health.
Ms. Ho Lee Yen, Chief Marketing Officer of AIA Singapore, said, "Adults' unhealthy lifestyle habits are rubbing off on our children. Therefore, it is important for families to make a collective effort to stay healthy together. Beyond government initiatives such as the Nurture SG task force and the push towards becoming a car-lite Singapore, we need to create an environment and mindset that is conducive for families in Singapore to lead healthier lifestyles together."
"AIA Singapore has been proactively championing this by introducing health-centric, family-friendly initiatives such as The Music RunTM by AIA and the AIA stadium at KidZania Singapore. As we celebrate our 85th anniversary in Singapore this year, we are stepping up our efforts to empower the community with the confidence and optimism to live healthier, happier, better lives with their families," she added. 
Digital devices: bane or boon?
While spending more time online has resulted in a more sedentary lifestyle for many, digital devices are also recognised as a useful tool to encourage healthy living. 
64% of Singaporeans find that digital devices such as the internet or mobile phones are useful to help them keep track of their progress and stay motivated to exercise, higher than regional average of 60%. 
In addition, 74% of Singaporeans rely on the internet for information and advice on healthy food, higher than the regional average of 67%.
This highlights the potential of digital devices to improve Singapore's health. As our mobile devices rarely leave our hands these days, how can we make them work for, not against, our health? 
Helping Singaporeans take small steps to improve their health 
Based on AIA's 2016 Healthy Living Index Survey, we see that Singaporeans increasingly recognise the power of digital to help them take charge of their health. They also welcome help to set health goals and monitor their progress, with 79% saying they have taken some steps towards better health. 
Today, 21% of Singaporeans use health tracking apps on their smart phone or tablet, a positive step in making our increasingly digital lifestyles work for our health
AIA's 2016 Healthy Living Index Survey shows that among those Singaporeans who have not taken any steps towards healthier living, 80% blame their busy lifestyles, much higher than regional average of 68%.2 That said, Singaporeans readily admit that they can do more, are willing to take small steps to be healthier, and welcome help to improve their health.
As we move towards being a Smart Nation, it is imperative for us to also leverage technology to improve our health as a nation. 
AIA Singapore recognises the importance of healthy living in a country that is rapidly evolving and advancing, and is championing this change. 
Ms. Ho Lee Yen, Chief Marketing Officer of AIA Singapore, said, "This is why in 2013, AIA Singapore launched AIA Vitality, the first-in-market science-backed wellness proposition which provides participants with the knowledge, tools and motivation to help them take small steps to achieve their personal health goals. AIA Vitality works with three simple steps – 1. Know your health, 2. Improve your health and 3. Enjoy your rewards. 
  • AIA's 2016 Healthy Living Index Survey found that Singaporeans would be motivated to exercise or eat healthier if they had smaller and more achievable goals (79%), received help to change one step at a time (79%) and rewarded for reaching goals (73%), further reinforcing the AIA Vitality proposition: Celebrating #LittleHealthVictories – no effort is too small to be rewarded.
  • The AIA Vitality programme enables members to log their daily food intake, track their workouts, calculate calorie budgets, submit health check results and monitor their weight and BMI, leveraging Singapore's digital lifestyle to help people take little steps to improve their health.
Ms. Ho Lee Yen added, "We look forward to helping more Singaporeans live healthier and better lives with AIA Vitality."
2 This is consistent with the Sports Index 2014 by Sport Singapore, which found that 28 in every 100 Singaporeans are inactive and the top barrier to sports participation among the sedentary is a lack of time, cited by almost 4 in 5 (77%) of them.
About the survey 
AIA's 2016 Healthy Living Index Survey is the 3rd of the series, conducted across 15 Asia Pacific markets where AIA operates, to better understand how adults aged 18+ across Asia Pacific feel about their health. A total of 10,316 interviews were conducted, including 501 from Singapore.
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About the AIA Group
AIA Group Limited and its subsidiaries (collectively "AIA" or the "Group") comprise the largest independent publicly listed pan-Asian life insurance group. It has a presence in 18 markets in Asia-Pacific – wholly-owned branches and subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, New Zealand, Macau, Brunei, a 97 per cent subsidiary in Sri Lanka, a 49 per cent joint venture in India and a representative office in Myanmar and Cambodia.
The business that is now AIA was first established in Shanghai almost a century ago. It is a market leader in the Asia-Pacific region (ex-Japan) based on life insurance premiums and holds leading positions across the majority of its markets. It had total assets of US$168 billion as of 30 November 2015.
AIA meets the long-term savings and protection needs of individuals by offering a range of products and services including life insurance, accident and health insurance and savings plans. The Group also provides employee benefits, credit life and pension services to corporate clients. Through an extensive network of agents, partners and employees across Asia-Pacific, AIA serves the holders of more than 29 million individual policies and over 16 million participating members of group insurance schemes.
AIA Group Limited is listed on the Main Board of The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited under the stock code "1299" with American Depositary Receipts (Level 1) traded on the over-the-counter market (ticker symbol: "AAGIY").
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