Singaporeans socialising and dining out less, mental well-being declines

THE STRAITS TIMES – As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, people are more concerned about catching the virus.

Nearly half of the people in Singapore polled in an online survey of 1,000 respondents have cut back on physical activities, and 73 per cent dine out less often.

All this has come at a cost to many. Mental health has declined since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with 76 per cent of the respondents feeling sad or depressed, and 65 per cent feeling lonely.

As the pandemic continues, a good number of people polled also said they are willing to put up with trade-offs, such as longer waiting times for hospital treatment.

Nearly half of them – 42 per cent – are willing to wait longer for their turn to receive in-patient non-urgent care at hospitals, if they are full with COVID-19 patients.

More than half of them (52 per cent) are willing to do the same for outpatient non-urgent care.

The respondents are also least willing to put up with measures that impact their social life, such as limits on the size of household gatherings and dining in food and beverage (F&B) establishments, according to the survey commissioned by The Straits Times and conducted by market research firm Milieu Insight.

Customers dine at a restaurant in Singapore’s city centre. PHOTO: XINHUA

The poll was conducted from September 20 to 22, ahead of the latest rounds of measures announced on September 24 which kicked in yesterday.

The results are representative of the Singapore population 16-years-old and above by age, gender and ethnicity.

In the same survey, more than half of the respondents think the government has managed the situation well, and are willing to follow the mandatory restrictions.

Compared with a similar survey conducted in August 2020, the proportion of residents who are concerned about the number of new cases has doubled to 70 per cent.

The proportion of those who fear catching the virus has also grown, from 37 per cent to 72 per cent.

These concerns come in the wake of a sharp spike in cases, with the daily number rising to more than 1,000 over the past week.

From yesterday, people are allowed to gather only in groups of two instead of five. Such tightened measures will last a month and will be reviewed in two weeks and adjusted, depending on the community situation.

Asked what measures they are most willing to tolerate or live with, the residents surveyed are most willing to put up with measures such as mandatory mask wearing (67 per cent), encouraging or enforcing working from home (54 per cent), and SafeEntry check-ins (47 per cent).

They are least willing to live with measures that impact their social life, such as limits on the size of household gatherings (54 per cent) and dining in F&B establishments (50 per cent); as well as self-testing (45 per cent).

Overall, a significant proportion – 45 per cent – are willing to live with the restrictions for as long as they are necessary; 36 per cent are willing to living with the curbs for another year.

Eight per cent are willing to do so for more than one to two years, while 10 per cent no longer want to live with any restrictions.

More than half (54 per cent) of those surveyed felt that COVID-19 has somewhat or definitely changed their lives for the worse.

They have consciously reduced outdoor and social activities, with 66 per cent shopping less often in physical stores since COVID-19 hit Singapore. They have also cut back on dining out and meeting in groups.

Eighty-five per cent have not travelled overseas since the pandemic started. As some countries re-open, 44 per cent foresee resuming their leisure travel some time in 2022.