Opinion

How Singaporeans’ Pursuit of Money May be Affecting their Wellbeing

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Joanne Poh

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Yet again, a news report has revealed something we already knew deep down inside—according to a recent poll, Singaporeans performed fairly well in terms of financial wellbeing compared to other countries, but had a poor showing in terms of other forms of wellbeing, namely community wellbeing, purpose wellbeing, social wellbeing and physical wellbeing.

So it seems that while Singaporeans in general feel like they have a handle on their finances, they are lacking in other areas. Here’s why the pursuit of money may be partly to blame.

 

Community wellbeing

In the poll, community wellbeing was defined as “liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community”. Singapore ranked a dismal 72nd  in the world, a far cry from its Number 9 ranking for financial wellbeing.

Singaporeans are notorious for complaining about being stuck in Singapore, and when visitors ask what there is to do in the country it’s not unusual to be met with a scoff and the refrain of, “this place is boring, there’s nothing to here.” Older Singaporeans lament the loss of the kampung spirit, now replaced by stone-faced strangers glued to their smartphones.

This lack of a sense of community can be traced to a fiercely competitive society. From an early age, children are taught not to view the people around them as fellow members of the community, but as competitors—for jobs, money and even MRT seats. Instead of teaching them the need to respect the people around them, parents goad their kids into snapping up seats on the MRT before anyone else can, and to outdo their classmates in everything from studies to sports.

All this creates a dog-eat-dog atmosphere that lies directly in opposition with a sense of connectedness to the community and the world at large.

 

Purpose wellbeing

A sense of purpose, otherwise defined as “liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals”, was conspicuously weak in the Singapore population, which was ranked 111th. So apparently, Singaporeans are unmotivated and feel no sense of purpose in their everyday activities.

This could well be an accurate reflection of sentiments on the ground, as Singaporeans have long been shown by various polls to be some of the world’s unhappiest employees, and are famously unsatisfied and disengaged at work. This could have something to do with the fact that Singaporeans tend to pick their careers according to what will earn them the most money, while interest and aptitude tend to be secondary considerations.

The result is that you have a population that works hard for the money but lacks a feeling of intrinsic motivation. One look at the sullen faces of office workers in the CBD and it’s not hard to see how that might the case.

 

Social wellbeing

Singapore came in 127th in terms of social wellbeing, which indicates that Singaporeans didn’t think they had supportive relationships and love in their lives. When the pursuit of money is paramount, it’s not hard to see how there can be a negative impact on relationships.

Singaporeans work some of the longest hours in the world, and it’s no wonder there’s not much time left over for socialising and dating. The low birth rate can be attributed in part to the high cost of living, long hours at work and lack of support from employers. In addition, most Singaporeans tend to live with their parents until marriage due to the cost of living and cultural factors, and that gets in the way of developing independence and having the space to socialise.

 

Physical wellbeing

Singapore was ranked a very sad 137th in terms of physical wellbeing, which was defined as “having good health and enough energy to get things done daily”. Once again, long working hours are partly to blame for this sad state of affairs, as toiling at the office till late at night is obviously a no-no when it comes to keeping energy levels high.

In addition, cancer rates have spiked in Singapore over the last three years, and diabetes cases are on the rise, too. High stress levels, not having the time to prepare meals at home and a lack of exercise might have something to do with it. In any case, it would probably be a good idea for the average Singaporean to allocate some of the effort put into making money to maintaining his health instead.

How would you rate your own sense of wellbeing in the above areas? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.