The greatest health challenge identified lies in meeting the rising costs of extending the health span and managing poor health later in life.
Concerns amongst people in Asia about their health deteriorating shortly after they stop working are being further exacerbated by the rising cost of healthcare and pressure on their personal finances.
According to the Manulife Asia Care Survey 2023, people in Asia expect to retire at 60 on average, with poor health expected to set in at 63. The 'health span' (i.e., - the period of life spent in good health, free from old age-related disabilities and chronic disease) is therefore only expected to be three years after retirement.
Interestingly, the expectations of more than 7,000 individuals surveyed remained relatively consistent except for two notable outliers, Singapore and Indonesia. In Singapore, people expect to be in poor health a year even before their expected retirement, at the age of 62, while those in Indonesia expect to continue in good health for five years after retiring at 58.
For context, the survey outlined the official retirement ages in the markets surveyed: China: 60 (men), and 55 (women); Hong Kong: 65; Indonesia: 58; Malaysia: 60 (government jobs: 62); the Philippines: 65; Singapore: 63, and Vietnam: 60 years 6 months.
Providing further context, the greatest health challenge identified lies in meeting the rising costs of extending the health span and managing poor health later in life. Nearly half of the survey respondents (45%) find that the expense of critical illness treatment creates the greatest stress, along with the ramifications of such illnesses on their income and job stability.
Respondents in Asia overall also fear illnesses, with their four main concerns being:
- cancer (48%),
- heart disease (43%),
- stroke (38%), and
- diabetes (35%).
With an aging population in Asia, age-related diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's were also causing concern among 20% of respondents.
Willingness to spend more to extend health span
Even amidst rising costs, 92% of respondents would be willing to spend more to prolong their health span. Investing in exercise and a healthier diet are the main ways people seek to improve their health. At the same time, as mental health issues rise, mindfulness activities, such as yoga and brain training, are also popular ways of self-help.
In terms of active healthcare approaches, body checks (45%), early diagnosis services (31%), seeking professional advice (29%), and regular online health enquiries (23%) were noted to be the most popular. Still, cost remains a significant challenge, with more than a third (37%) worrying about loss of income or job in the event of a serious illness.
Additionally, as a result of rising costs, do-it-yourself (DIY) healthcare has also become increasingly popular, with increased demand for mobile apps to help monitor health (86%), with apps to monitor exercise (52%), sleep (38%), and dieting (35%) being the three most popular.
In tandem with their health planning, most respondents have personal finance goals. Most respondents were particularly saving for:
- retirement (49%),
- a rainy day (42%), and
- for healthcare or medical needs (32%).
Saving for retirement was particularly high in Singapore (63%), the survey highlighted.
How then, are the respondents looking to achieve these goals? Per the survey, cash savings and bank deposits (81%) were cited as the main avenue, followed by personal insurance (59%). Regionally, family support (42%) was seen as a key source to achieve these goals too.
According to Damien Green, President and Chief Executive Officer, Manulife Asia, "the likeliest obstacles to meeting these financial targets are inflation, economic slowdown and a drop in income, followed by rising healthcare costs and deteriorating personal health."
Confidence in achieving financial goals
Overall, the respondents were generally confident (70%) of achieving their financial goals, with just 14% not expecting to do so. That being said, those in Hong Kong (57%) and Singapore (52%) were the least confident compared with other markets such as Mainland China (81%) and Indonesia (88%). The respondents, who have an average age of 41, also expect to achieve their retirement savings targets within a relatively short timeframe — one-third believe they will reach their retirement target within five years, while another one-third (26%) expect to do so in the next five to ten years.
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