Clean bill of health for Singaporeans? Not for most: Poll

More than 70 per cent of people in Singapore believe they are healthy but a new survey is painting a different picture. According to insurer Prudential Singapore's Health Literacy Poll, the majority are not eating enough greens and fruits nor getting enough exercise.

The insurer attributed this awareness gap to the general poor knowledge about health matters.

Conducted this month, Prudential polled 501 respondents to find out what people here think about their state of health and whether their actual lifestyle choices mirror their own perceptions.

LOW LEVELS OF AWARENESS ABOUT HEALTH MATTERS

The survey indicated that there is great variation from person to person over what they regarded as a healthy diet.

A hefty 60 per cent of respondents see their diet as generally healthy, but close to half of the total respondents eat less than two servings of vegetables a day, the recommended portion by Singapore's Health Promotion Board.

Fifty-eight per cent consume less than the prescribed two servings of fruit a day and almost two-thirds opt for less sugar only "sometimes", "seldom" or "never at all".

When it comes to exercise, 81 per cent of those surveyed do less than the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week and an even higher proportion - 85 per cent - do less than the recommended 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.

The findings show a lack of understanding about basic guidelines on nutrition and exercise. More than 90 per cent surveyed do not know the optimum levels of daily exercise; nearly 70 per cent do not know the recommended daily intake for vegetables and fruits; and 60 per cent are not able to cite the recommended daily calorie intake.

On the bright side, the drinking habits of people here are far more positive.

Of all respondents, only 2 per cent of men and 3 per cent of women drink past the alcohol limit, while just 1 per cent consume more than the recommended limit of four to five cups of coffee/tea a day. The alcohol limit for men is no more than two standard drinks a day, and for women, no more than one standard drink daily.

To help people in Singapore along the path to better health, Prudential has partnered genetics testing firm Prenetics to offer a DNA-based fitness and diet programme.

Ms Angela Hunter, Prudential Singapore's chief customer officer, said creating greater awareness about healthy habits is the first step towards nurturing a healthy nation.

"We hope our survey spurs Singaporeans to learn more about their state of wellness, the impact of the lifestyle choices they make, and move towards healthier living.

"After all, research from the World Health Organisation has shown that 80 per cent of coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease can be avoided by improvements in lifestyle choices, such as healthier food consumption," said Ms Hunter.

WHAT KEEPS PEOPLE HERE FROM MAINTAINING A HEALTHY DIET AND FITNESS REGIME?

The survey also reveals the barriers that keep people from maintaining a healthy diet and fitness regime.

For instance, a lack of self-motivation (55 per cent) and time (48 per cent) were the top two reasons cited. Not surprisingly, having more personal free time (46 per cent) ranks as the top motivator that would push people here to commit to healthier choices, followed by having a more enjoyable experience of exercising and eating healthily (43 per cent), and receiving monetary incentives and financial aid (42 per cent).

To help people in Singapore along the path to better health, Prudential has partnered genetics testing firm Prenetics to offer a DNA-based fitness and diet programme. It aims to promote better lifestyle habits through greater health awareness to its employees and customers.

The myDNA programme involves the use of a simple saliva test to provide personalised insights on a person's health through a report.

It also offers a mobile application that helps users set fitness goals, track progress, log food photos and get a calorie count and a chat-on-demand with nutrition experts for diet advice.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 27, 2017, with the headline 'Clean bill of health for S'poreans? Not for most: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe