74% of Singaporeans and PRs feel anxious over pandemic impact: Study

Economic issues and health concerns were among the items that figured high on the list of anxiety causes in the survey. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The impact of the current coronavirus pandemic has caused anxiety among three in four Singaporeans and permanent residents, according to a study conducted by marketing communications agency Wunderman Thompson.

The results of the study, which polled 500 respondents between June 29 and July 6, was released on Thursday (Sept 24).

The economy, which has taken a big hit in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak here, was the main cause of anxiety among those surveyed.

Singapore's economy contracted by 13.2 per cent year on year in the second quarter, the worst on record.

About 78 per cent of those in the study said that they were anxious about economic issues, with a majority worrying about issues such as unemployment rates and the current state of the economy.

Among the 18- to 24-year-olds, their main concerns were finding jobs that fit their skills, with the graduates facing difficulty in their job search, the survey showed.

Health concerns also figured high on the list of anxiety causes, with 73 per cent of respondents saying they were worried about such issues.

A majority of those who were troubled about health indicated that they were anxious about global pandemic diseases, such as Covid-19.

When it came to Covid-19, two main concerns dominated: the fear of contracting the disease in public spaces, and worry about the long-term economic disruption from the pandemic fallout.

About 37 per cent said they were bothered about their families and friends contracting the coronavirus, as many as those who feared catching it themselves at malls or public places.

Thirty-six per cent were afraid of catching Covid-19 on public transport, while about 33 per cent feared being infected while in a taxi or ride-hailing vehicle.

On the economic disruption brought on by the pandemic, 40 per cent were worried it would go on for a really long time. A similar percentage feared that the economy would crash, while 30 per cent were anxious about losing their jobs.

Said Apac director at Wunderman Thompson Intelligence Chen May Yee: "Different groups are anxious about different things but what's clear is people are anxious on multiple levels. There's the daily stress of worrying whether it's risky to eat out or whether your job is safe. Meanwhile, (people) are also looking at the wider economy and bracing for what is yet to come."

Well-being and leadership coach Nitya Rao-Perera said that it is important to deal with such fears, as being anxious can lead to a number of different conditions such as depression or burnout.

"People who have no history of mental health disorders can also fall into a bracket of being vulnerable to anxiety disorders, or higher levels of anxiety. What can innocently creep up as feelings of doom despair, being indecisive or unsure, can lead to something more complicated," she said.

She shared three main strategies to cope with anxiety arising from Covid-19.

First, there is a need to build up one's self-efficacy - the feeling that you are in control of your life and taking action.

This means focusing on the things that are within a person's control, rather than the things they cannot control.

"Covid-19 is not within our control. The way the economy is performing is not, the health of certain industries is not within our control. But how we manage ourselves, how we are reacting to it, all that is within our control. Self-efficacy is the first one and probably the most important coping resource to overcome anxiety," she said.

Second is the need to remember that life's greatest lessons are usually learnt at the worst times.

"The more we take a stance that it's okay to learn from the mistakes that we make... we can bring more reflection into our way of being, and be more compassionate with ourselves," said Mrs Rao-Perera.

Finally, it is important to reframe one's interpretation of a situation, to perceive it in a more positive way.

For instance, if someone is passed up for a promotion due to Covid-19, he can see it as an opportunity to be less stressed or have more time for himself, said Mrs Rao-Perera, adding: "There are different ways that we can interpret the situations that we experience, and how we interpret reflects the anxiety that we will have."

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