A recent study conducted by UK manufacturing firm Sleepseeker has revealed that Singapore is the most fatigued country in the world. As the smallest Southeast Asian country and the busiest trading and tech hub in the world, it is hardly surprising that the people of Singapore are the most fatigued due to overwork. With the number of hours spent by those in Singapore working, what are some of the impacts incurred with regards to health?
Work culture in Asia is generally very different from that in Europe or America. Before diving into the impacts, it is important to first understand the reason for the long work hours in Singapore, or in any Asian country. Though hard-working at work, the European work culture enjoys long holidays and a substantial amount of rest period, finding a balance between work and rest. Countries like France have legislation that protects people's right to disconnect, promoting respect for after-work hours. This is not the case in Asia, as people tend to work hard and work overtime, even working during off work hours. Additionally, working overtime could be due to working internationally with executives from Europe or America, where the time is adjusted to fit their time zones. In Singapore, some companies even require employees to work on Saturdays, but usually for half a day.
Given the long hours spent working, there are bound to be several negative impacts on one's health. One of the most significant impacts is the lack of sleep. As people in Singapore spend most of their time working, even working into the weekends, there is hardly any time for rest. In Singapore, adults reportedly get less than 7 hours of sleep every day, which heavily contributes to the fatigue levels people in Singapore are facing every day. Additionally, Singapore is known to be a dynamic and fast-paced city, where many expatriates have active social lives alongside busy work lives. Balancing both active lifestyles can lead to inadequate amounts of sleep, which can cause exhaustion and burnout in the long run, leading to decreased productivity at work.
Majority of the workforce in Singapore comprises office and corporate workers, meaning that many people lead sedentary lifestyles. After spending a long and tiring day sitting behind a desk and staring at a computer, most people tend to lack the motivation and energy to engage in any physical activities after work hours.
With Covid-19 hitting Singapore, the circuit breaker initialised by the government has seen people working from home, further increasing the adoption of a sedentary lifestyle. In the 2021 National Population Health Survey, nearly half of the adults in Singapore are living sedentary lifestyles, with half of the total population in Singapore reporting that the only form of physical activity they got was commuting to work. As a result, people in Singapore are becoming less healthy, as the survey has reported a 50% spike in the number of people with high blood pressure within two years.
This is also contributed by the hawker culture, where many people in Singapore tend to eat out, typically at hawker centers where the food is cheap but also greasier in nature. Coupled with this less healthy diet, this contributes to high blood pressure and other negative health issues like high cholesterol and diabetes.
Another significant impact of prolonged working hours is increased stress levels. In Cigna's 2019 360 Well-Being survey, 92% of working Singaporeans are stressed, while Mercer's 2022 Global Talent Trends Study found that 85% of employees felt at risk of burnout, with one in five Singaporeans feeling de-energised at work. This is twice as high as the average in Asia, and 6% higher than the global average.
With Covid-19 changing people's lifestyles, coupled with the work culture in Singapore, it's no surprise that people in Singapore feel this way. Factors such as uncertainty due to lack of communication over changes happening in the company, feeling overloaded with work, and feeling discontent over unrewarded efforts at work all contribute to the stress levels among those working in Singapore. With the long hours spent at work, there is also insufficient time to rest and focus on the social aspect of life, which is to spend time with family and friends. In the long run, this can result in various negative problems such as headaches, insomnia, depression, and other psychological problems. It can also affect appetite and diet, leading to an unbalanced diet and lifestyle.
In a paper written by authors from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2021, it has been proven that overwork can cause death from health problems in the long run. It states that each year, three-quarters of a million people are dying from ischemic heart disease and stroke due to working long hours. Breaking it down further, those working 55 or more hours each week have an estimated 35% higher chance of getting a stroke and a 17% higher chance of dying from heart disease, compared to those working less than 40 hours a week.
Improving your overall health while working long hours can be challenging, but it's essential to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Here are some strategies that can help:
Take breaks: It's important to take short breaks throughout the day to stretch, move around, and give your eyes a break from the screen. Set a timer to remind yourself to take breaks regularly.
Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water can help you stay alert and focused. Keep a water bottle at your desk and sip on it throughout the day.
Eat nutritious meals: Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and energised. Pack healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, or granola bars to avoid reaching for unhealthy options.
Exercise regularly: Even if you have a busy schedule, finding time to exercise can boost your energy levels and improve your mood. Consider taking a brisk walk during your lunch break or doing a quick workout before or after work.
Prioritise sleep: Getting enough sleep is crucial for your overall health and well-being. Try to establish a consistent sleep schedule and create a relaxing bedtime routine to help you unwind after a long day.
Remember, prioritising your health is essential for your long-term success and happiness. By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can improve your overall health and well-being, even while working long hours.
If despite your efforts you are starting to experience symptoms of exhaustion or fatigue, do not hesitate to seek medical advice before it causes any serious damage to your health.
To help you cope with your medical expenses in Singapore, APRIL International can provide you with comprehensive and fully flexible medical cover. Discover more about our MyHEALTH package or contact one of our advisers to learn more about your insurance solutions.
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