Everything changed this very day last year. Bubble tea disappeared from view, bedrooms transformed into offices overnight, and options for socialising all but evaporated.
That’s right, it truly was apocalyptic.
Today (7 Apr), one year on, how’s everyone doing?
Not too well, The Straits Times reports.
Online Poll Finds That S’poreans are Working More & Socialising Less; 1 in 3 Also Face Decline in Mental Health
A new survey has found that people have been spending less time socialising and more time working since the Circuit Breaker started last year.
Out of 1,000 respondents, 61% now interact less frequently with people not part of their immediate family, and 44% found their social networks diminishing since last year.
Connections with close family haven’t uniformly improved either: 23% now socialise less frequently with them, while 20% gave the opposite response.
Encouragingly, however, 27% of respondents found that their relationship with close family improved last year.
Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser from the National University of Singapore (NUS) noted that circumstances under the pandemic contributed significantly to this reduced socialisation.
In addition to social distancing restrictions, work-from-home provisions have also ambiguated the distinction between work and leisure time, and the busier schedules of workers could have precluded social activities.
About 52% of employed respondents indicated an increased workload since the Circuit Breaker, with many feeling they are expected to put in more effort to make up for the lack of a physical workplace.
All these can further erode a work-life balance that was already jeopardised before the pandemic. Prof Tan believes this is a “bad thing”, since reduced social interactions and increased stress can cause significant deteriorations to one’s mental well-being.
Correspondingly, 36% of respondents said they experienced a less healthy mental state than before the pandemic, including 5% who reported it had worsened “much more”.
Professor Chua Hong Choon of the National Healthcare Group (NHG) suggested multiple ways the pandemic could have worsened people’s mental well-being. This is unsurprisingly considering that mental health organisations received more calls for help in 2020.
Chief among them is our human nature to be social, and the disruptions to it caused by the circuit breaker. Workers may have seen workplace relationships fracture without face-to-face interactions, and the elderly are at a greater risk for loneliness and isolation without extended family visits.
The global economic downturn has also not spared Singapore and led to higher levels of unemployment, although the government’s extensive support measures did manage to dampen its effects.
In response, the government assembled a COVID-19 Mental Wellness Taskforce late last year, which would evolve into a multi-agency apparatus to promote mental well-being even beyond the pandemic.
As The Straits Times reports, this new platform will develop a national strategy for mental health and well-being, publish a webpage of mental health resources available nationwide, and create a framework for professional training in mental health.
Prof Chua, who is also the head of the task force, also encouraged people to contribute to community mental health events to further their awareness of mental health issues. And, of course, to always keep a lookout for one another.
More Willing to Abide by Social Distancing Measures
Let’s be honest: COVID-19 has gone on for way too long. Up to 80% of the survey respondents agreed, having believed in the early days that the pandemic would have ended by now.
Nonetheless, people are willing to do their part in seeing the pandemic to its end as soon as possible: 62% are now more willing to wear their masks correctly, and 54% to abide by the 1-metre safe distancing guideline.
Notably, 15% more respondents disagreed than agreed that the safe management protocols in force are redundant and unneeded.
As Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang of the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health pointed out, the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions has made it easier for people to adapt to measures still in place.
Professor Dale Fisher from the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, meanwhile, attributed this to the “very responsible messaging in Singapore and a good relationship between the community and the leadership”.
People therefore were able to readily accept the need to continue efforts against the pandemic, without significant resistance as would be expected from a society with low public trust in the government.
Overall, people have remained optimistic about Singapore’s efforts to fight COVID-19. 77% of respondents either strongly or somewhat agreed that the country has the pandemic under control, the survey showed.
But placing the COVID-19 pandemic under control is different from ending it altogether, and, according to Professor Josip Car of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), “people would be understandably looking towards a clear pandemic exit strategy for Singapore.”
For now, let’s just wear our masks and keep our distance. We aren’t sure when, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and the end of the pandemic will come someday.
Feature Image: joyfull / Shutterstock.com