The National Population Health Survey (NPHS) 2021, which tracks health and risk factors of Singapore residents aged 18 to 74 years for the period of July 2020 to June 2021, highlights the increasing need for Singaporeans to look after their own health amidst the backdrop of an ageing population.
2. Self-reported (non-COVID-19) vaccination uptake, particularly pneumococcal vaccination, increased significantly during this period. The survey also found that more individuals were willing to seek professional help for mental illnesses. However as the population ages, fewer residents met the recommended level of physical activity in 2021, compared with 2019. There was also a drop in participation in chronic disease and cancer screening, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Uptick in influenza vaccination and pneumococcal vaccination coverage among seniors
3. The NPHS 2021 showed a promising increase in uptake of influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations amongst seniors. The proportion of older residents aged 65 to 74 who had influenza vaccination rose from 24.2% in 2019 to 32.4% in 2021. The self-reported pneumococcal vaccination coverage among seniors aged 65 to 74 years also increased from 10.3% in 2019 to 22.4% in 2021.
4. The Ministry of Health (MOH) will continue to partner with healthcare professionals, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) and other partners to encourage vaccinations under the National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS), to prevent serious complications and death among high-risk groups such as the elderly and persons with certain medical conditions.
More sought help on mental health
5. The NPHS 2021 found that more people came forward to seek professional help on mental health. A higher proportion of Singapore residents were willing to seek help from healthcare professionals to cope with stress in 2021 (58.3%) compared to 2019 (47.8%). This reflects heightened public awareness of mental wellness, and reduced stigma around mental conditions.
6. Correspondingly, the proportion of Singapore residents who were willing to seek help from informal support networks dropped from 74.5% in 2019 to 69.1% in 2021. More effort is required to strengthen informal and community support.
7. We will continue to enhance community mental health services, promote mental health awareness, enable early identification and support timely assessment and interventions. Under the Community Mental Health Masterplan, MOH and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), together with community partners, have set up community outreach teams to reach out to and educate residents on mental health. In addition, community intervention teams provide persons in mental distress with counselling and psycho-social interventions. Mental health services are also available in primary care to assess, diagnose and treat persons with mental health conditions. Efforts to increase mental health awareness and encourage help-seeking among peers, such as the SG Mental Well-Being Network, are also ongoing.
8. To oversee and coordinate mental health and well-being efforts, the Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being was set up in July last year. A public consultation on the Taskforce’s preliminary recommendations has recently concluded, and the feedback received will be reviewed to refine the recommendations.
Health screening participation declined, self-reported chronic disease prevalence remained stable
9. Screening participation generally decreased in 2021 compared with 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. This may be due to the deferment of non-urgent services, which included screening services, during the pandemic. Participation in chronic disease screening fell from 66.3% in 2019 to 59.2% in 2021. Screening participation similarly decreased for breast (from 38.7% to 31.1%), cervical (from 48.2% to 41.0%), and colorectal cancers (from 42.0% to 36.6%).
10. About 7% of Singapore residents surveyed reported having diabetes, about 14% reported having high blood cholesterol, and about 16% reported having hypertension. These self-reported figures are comparable to 2019, but need to be treated with caution. Fewer persons had gone for chronic disease screening during the COVID-19 pandemic, and there could be significant levels of undiagnosed chronic conditions.
11. We will continue to promote health screening, through the Screen for Life programme. Healthier SG will fully fund nationally recommended health screening when it is officially rolled out in the second half of next year. These screenings include those for diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, as well as three cancers (breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers). We expect that screening participation will be given a boost when Heathier SG is rolled out.
Levels of physical activity fell amidst pandemic
12. We surveyed the prevalence of Singapore residents engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, as a reflection of the desired sustained intensity of physical activity. This figure decreased from 80.1% in 2019 to 71.1% in 2021, likely a result of reduced social and physical activities during the pandemic.
13. While the proportion of Singapore residents engaging in leisure-time regular exercise declined from 35.2% in 2019 to 32.5% in 2021, the decline was not statistically significant. Leisure-time regular exercise was highest among young adults aged 18 to 29 years (40.5%) and lowest among older adults aged 60 to 74 years (24.0%) in 2021.
14. To encourage Singaporeans to be more active, we have launched the Singapore Physical Activity Guidelines, and will continue to improve accessibility to various exercise programmes, including expanding the choices, bringing the programmes online and creating more exercise sessions in community spaces. Through Healthier SG, we will also encourage Singaporeans to lead more active lifestyles, and support it by enhancing the National Steps Challenge.
Smoking and binge drinking remained stable
15. The prevalence of daily smoking for Singapore residents remained stable at 10.4% in 2021, compared to 10.6% in 2019. Overall, there is a sustained trend of decreasing smoking rates over the past decade. The prevalence of binge drinking1 also remained stable at 9.6% in 2021, compared to 10.2% in 2019.
16. We will continue our efforts to keep smoking prevalence low. We will enhance educational efforts in schools to prevent smoking initiation from young while continuing to help smokers quit through our smoking cessation programmes. In addition, policies such as the Minimum Legal Age 21 and standardised packaging for all tobacco products form part of a multipronged approach to tobacco control, and reduce smoking in the population.
17. To target binge drinking, we will continue our educational efforts in mainstream schools and Institutes of Higher Learning, and through information on the harmful effects of alcohol consumption on HealthHub.
18. The full NPHS 2021 report is available on the MOH website at https://www.moh.gov.sg/resources-statistics/reports/nhps-2020-21.
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
20 DECEMBER 2022
1 Binge drinking refers to consumption of 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females in any 1 drinking session during the past month preceding the survey.