S'poreans life expectancy increased, but more living with diabetes & hypertension

For every 10 years we live, we spend more than a year in illness.

Joshua Lee | March 06, 2019, 04:15 PM

Singaporeans are living longer lives but more people are living with chronic diseases.

This was highlighted by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong during the Ministry of Health's Committee of Supply debate on March 6.

According to Gan, Singaporeans' life expectancy rose from 83.2 years in 2010 to 84.8 years in 2017.

However, when we look at Health Adjusted Life Expectancy, which takes into account the amount of time lived in perfect health, Singaporeans' life expectancy drops to 74.2 years.

"These figures also show that we are living about 10 years of our life in ill health," said Gan. "For every 10 years we live, we spend more than a year in illness."

In other words, 10 per cent of our lives is spent being ill.

More people getting chronic diseases

Gan further added that mortality rates due to cancer, stroke, and heart disease have fallen by 16 per cent from 2010 to 2017 because of early prevention, better treatment and disease management. Hence, life expectancy also increased.

However, within the same period from 2010 to 2017, prevalence rates of diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and high cholesterol levels (hyperlipidaemia) increased.

In 2010, 8.3 per cent of Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 had diabetes. In 2017, the proportion increased to 8.6 per cent.

18.9 per cent of Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 had hypertension in 2010. This increased to 21.5 per cent in 2017.

Lastly, 25.2 per cent of Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 was diagnosed with high cholesterol levels in 2010. This increased to 33.6 per cent in 2017.

According to Gan, this increase was in part due to an aging population, as well as unhealthy lifestyles and habits.

The Health Minister added that these chronic conditions can lead to more serious health issues like heart disease, kidney failure, and stroke if they are not managed well.

Making diabetes screening easier for people

Minister Gan paid particular attention to the "War on Diabetes" which he started three years ago.

Clarifying that it is still premature to assess if the campaign has delivered milestones, Gan said that MOH will need to push harder.

He highlighted several fronts where the Ministry will step up their efforts: Reduce diabetes-related amputations and empower patients and healthcare professionals to better manage diabetes and minimise complications.

One such way is to recommend the use of non-fasting diabetes screening to make it easier for patients to undergo screening.

Subsequently, Senior Minister of State for Health, Amy Khor mentioned that the Ministry will make early screening more convenient for women with a history of gestational diabetes and who are at a higher risk of diabetes later in life.

These women will automatically be eligible for subsidised cardiovascular risk screening under the Screen for Life programme and do not need to take the online diabetes risk assessment tool to qualify.

Top image via National Healthcare Group's Facebook page.