Asians Prioritize Health Span to Boost Retirement Well-being, Reveals Manulife Survey

29 March 2023 | Wednesday | News

A long and healthy post retirement life is the aspiration of many, however many consumers in Asia are concerned about a deterioration in their health shortly after they stop working. They say this challenge is hard to manage because of the rising cost of healthcare and pressure on their personal finances, according to new research by Manulife.
Asians Prioritize Health Span to Boost Retirement Well-being, Reveals Manulife Survey

Asians Prioritize Health Span to Boost Retirement Well-being, Reveals Manulife Survey

  • Survey of 7,000+ people in Asia shows expectation of early retirement, early deterioration in health
  • Concerns about cost of well-being nudging people towards DIY healthcare using mobile apps
  • Optimism about achieving financial goals and retirement savings targets in the next 5-10 years
  • Manulife to continue helping people navigating new headwinds to grow healthier and wealthier

The Manulife Asia Care Survey 2023 shows that, on average, people in Asia expect to retire at 60 with poor health expected to set in at 63, meaning the so-called health span – the period of life spent in good health, free from old age-related disabilities and chronic disease – is only expected to be three years after retirement.1 Expectations among the more than 7,000 people surveyed are relatively consistent with two major outliers: Singapore and Indonesia. In Singapore, people expect to be in poor health a year before their expected retirement at the age of 62, while in Indonesia they expect to continue in good health for five years after retiring at 58.

The greatest health challenge lies in meeting the rising costs of extending that 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.

Consumers in Asia are also in fear of 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 are also causing concern among 20% of respondents. 

"People in Asia work hard throughout their lives, and so it's understandable that they want to plan for a healthy and enjoyable retirement," said Damien Green, President and Chief Executive Officer, Manulife Asia. "The biggest challenge they face is finding affordable means to address their physical and mental well-being. At Manulife, we are committed to empowering sustained health and well-being, and we want to partner with consumers throughout their adult life to offer them an impactful range of solutions and living benefits that can make them both healthier and wealthier."

Willingness to spend more to extend health span

The vast majority of respondents (92%) said they are willing to spend more to prolong their health span. Investing in exercise and healthier diet are the main ways people seek to improve their health. Furthermore, with mental health issues on the rise, mindfulness activities, such as yoga and brain training, are also popular ways of self-help.

For more active healthcare approaches, body checks (45%), early diagnosis services (31%), seeking professional advice (29%) and regular online health enquiries (23%) are all popular. The challenge is the cost, particularly when more than a third (37%) worry about loss of income or job in the event of serious illness.

A consequence of rising costs is an increase in do-it-yourself (DIY) healthcare. Demand for mobile apps to help monitor health is very high (86%) – with apps to monitor exercise (52%), sleep (38%) and dieting (35%) the three most popular.

In tandem with their health planning, most respondents have personal finance goals. The top three goals among those participating in the survey are saving for: retirement (49%); a rainy day (42%); and for healthcare or medical needs (32%). Saving for retirement was particularly high in Singapore (63%).

Cash savings and bank deposits (81%) are cited as the main way for people to achieve their goals, followed by personal insurance (59%). Regionally, family support (42%) is a key source to achieve these goals too.

"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," said Green. "What's most concerning, however, is that only a third of the respondents have a retirement plan in place. We also see heavy reliance on cash savings, which will erode quickly in an inflationary environment. It is wise to either use savings vehicles that benefit from compounding returns or start investing and stay invested – or do both."

Confidence in achieving financial goals

Insurance is popular in the region, with nearly three quarters (70%) owning an average of three types of insurance, and 79% saying they intend to buy insurance in the coming 12 months. Out-patient health (30%), life, accident (both 26%), and hospitalization and critical illness (both 25%) are the most in demand.

For the most part, the survey respondents (70%) are confident of achieving their financial goals, with just 14% not expecting to do so. Those in Hong Kong (57%) and Singapore (52%) are 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. A third believe they will reach their retirement target within five years, while around one third (26%) expect to do so in the next five to ten years.   

"Given the average life expectancy in the region is over 752 and that their expectation is to retire at 60, the expected time required to achieve their retirement savings needs may well be unrealistic," said Green. "It's better to play safe, starting to save earlier and for longer, and then people can enjoy greater peace of mind and a more comfortable lifestyle later on."

Green added that consumers across Asia are seeking to take greater control of their destiny when it comes to retirement. "At Manulife, we are committed to helping our customers through these important life moments, so that they can make the right decisions that will have a huge impact on their future. For those without a retirement savings plan, we strongly recommend not to put it off any longer. And if you're unsure where to start, have a discussion with your financial advisor."

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