Social determinants of mental health in Singapore

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Recent public attention has focused on mental health issues among young Singaporeans, and Chow Zi Siong – a public health researcher (who penned a previous piece for this website on policy challenges in ageing Singapore) – has documented social determinants of mental health in the country: Social, psychological, cultural, and economic factors.

After remarking on the lack of research, Zi Siong draws from this narrow base to point out the lack of mental health-promoting practices, the limited effect of public campaigns, as well as the importance of early intervention and the taking of a life-course approach. He explains:

“A life-course approach recognises that the individual’s mental health at each stage of life is shaped by unique and common factors, and that mental health accumulates throughout life. In Singapore, this approach is critical due to the way social engineering constrains the trajectory of many domains in life; having a life-course approach ensures Singaporeans have the resources to combat against the ravages of biology, psychology and social factors.”

Furthermore, besides increased prioritisation of mental health, Zi Siong goes on to explain that more comprehensive approaches to improve mental health in Singapore should be matched by “an increase in allocations of financial, medical and human resources towards addressing mental disorders, reducing inequity and inequality of mental health, reducing risk for mental disorders, and promoting good mental health and well-being”. Issues such as the stress associated with the education system and the design of amenities in mature housing estates should be addressed too.

Read the full piece on his health and fitness research website.

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