First Singapore resilience study

by | September 15, 2023

Research by Income Insurance and SMU ROSA recommends resources to improve levels of resilience and well-being over time.


Income Insurance Ltd (Income Insurance) and Centre for Research on Successful Ageing (ROSA) at the Singapore Management University (SMU) found that Singaporeans are resilient mentally, physically, socially and financially according to a landmark study that established Singaporeans’ baseline resilience in these domains for the first time.

While resilience levels vary across different demographic groups and resilience domains, unemployed and lower-educated Singaporeans were identified as vulnerable across all domains.

Earmarked as the first resilience index in Singapore, Income Insurance had partnered ROSA in the study to measure Singaporeans’ resilience over time, help identify vulnerabilities and to rally initiatives to improve Singaporeans’ overall resilience and well-being.

“The pressures that everyday Singaporeans face will continue to grow in Singapore. With this study, we have developed a multi-faceted understanding of the financial, mental, physical and social resilience levels of Singaporeans. Specific to the older adults in this study, we analysed data drawn from SMU’s Singapore Life Panel. Intervention programmes aimed towards the development of resilience are critically important. While we may not be able to control what future challenges hold, cultivating a social environment that empowers resilience will ensure that well-being is safeguarded,” shared Professor Paulin Tay Straughan, director of the Centre for ROSA, SMU.

The Singapore Resilience Study examined the resilience profiles of 2,021 Singaporeans aged between 26 and 78 years old. On average, the sample respondents’ resilience mean scores were 5 to 7.5 points above the midpoints of the four resilience measures, marking Singaporeans as resilient.

  Mental resilience Social resilience Physical resilience Financial resilience
Mean 26.02 27.57 31.91 29.45
Mid-point 21 21 24.5 24.5


Other notable findings and possible reasons for differences in resilience levels identified in the Singapore Resilience Study are highlighted below:

(1) Younger Singaporeans have greater social and physical resilience than older cohorts

Singaporeans aged 46 to 55 years old were the most socially resilient across all age bands, followed by those in the youngest cohort (26- to 35-year-olds). Unsurprisingly, Singaporeans who were in the oldest age group (66 to 78 years old) had the lowest physical resilience compared to those younger.

(2) Married couples have greater social and financial resilience than singles – Married Singaporeans are likely to reside in dual-income households and benefit from their spouses’ contribution to their household income. Conversely, singles must be more self-reliant and hence, were found to be less financially resilient. Singles also reported lower social resilience than married respondents as they have access to neither the support of a spouse nor an extended family.

(3) Singaporeans who own larger housing types are more resilient – Social, physical, and financial resilience were found to be highest amongst respondents living in private housing followed by those living in four- to five-room HDB flats. The lowest levels of social, physical and financial resilience were observed in respondents living in one to three-room HDB flats. Mental resilience was not significantly different across the three housing types.

As housing types are considered a proxy for socioeconomic status (SES), it is unsurprising that those with larger homes are more likely to have higher resilience, especially financial resilience, compared to those with smaller homes. Singaporeans from higher SES are likely to have more resources to develop stronger social support networks and financial resources to cushion against risks.

(4) Employed Singaporeans have higher resilience than the unemployed, while retirees and homemakers fare better than the unemployed in social and financial resilience

Unemployed persons reported significantly lower levels of resilience across all domains possibly due to the stressful nature of being out of work as they may face heightened financial uncertainty and health conditions that inhibit employment opportunities. Additionally, unemployment is associated with social exclusion, which potentially explains why unemployed Singaporeans reported lower social resilience than their employed counterparts, retirees, and homemakers.

(5) Singaporeans who are more educated are more resilient – Conversely, respondents who have lower education levels reported lower levels of mental, social, physical and financial resilience. As education is also a proxy for SES, less educated Singaporeans are likely to have fewer resources to develop resilience.

(6) Unemployed and less educated Singaporeans are the least resilient – While we are cautious not to draw definitive conclusions about demographic differences in resilience in this inaugural study, the findings highlighted demographic groups that may be more vulnerable in each resilient domain and could benefit from interventions to improve their resilience levels.

Mental resilience


Social resilience


Physical resilience


Financial resilience


• Unemployed

• Lower educated

• Women


• Unemployed

• Lower educated

• Older adults

• Smaller home dwellers

• Singles


• Unemployed

• Lower-educated

• Older adults

• Smaller home dwellers


• Unemployed

• Lower-educated

• Smaller home dwellers

• Singles



Additionally, Singaporeans who owned more insurance policies from each insurance type – life and health insurance, wealth, and legacy planning – reported greater levels of resilience across all domains.

To identify how Singaporeans’ resilience can be nurtured, the study looked at resources that constitute resilience, and found that Singaporeans who have more resources such as social support, social engagement, financial literacy and insurance ownership, are likely more resilient.

More specifically, social support, social engagement and financial literacy are found to promote Singaporeans’ overall well-being, while they concurrently develop resilience. As these resources are widely accessible within the community, they can support interventions more sustainably.

Additionally, Singaporeans who owned more insurance policies from each insurance type – life and health insurance, wealth, and legacy planning – reported greater levels of resilience across all domains. Among the respondents, those who are older, unemployed, women, singles and from lower SES were found to have lower insurance coverage.

For older persons, this is likely due to the perceived onerous health underwriting process, reduced insurability of seniors and the higher cost of insurance with age. For unemployed Singaporeans, the inability to afford more forms of insurance and the lack of the employee insurance benefit are likely reasons for their lower insurance coverage.

Based on the findings above, the following suggestions on potential interventions may be considered:

(1) Target social support at Singaporeans who are unemployed or from lower SES. Specifically, direct support to the unemployed to ensure their overall resilience are safeguarded while they search for employment.

(2) Assist older Singaporeans in maintaining their physical well-being and resilience through targeted interventions.

(3) Include social preparations in retirement planning, in addition to financial preparedness, so that retirees remain socially engaged.

(4) Encourage shifts in how formal and informal work is viewed, valued and compensated.

(5) Target financial literacy programmes for retirees, homemakers and those who have a lower SES. In addition, cater insurance to meet the needs of these groups including Singaporeans who are older.

Professor Straughan said, “This study renders visible what constitutes resilience and how the various dimensions of resilience can be enhanced through meaningful interventions. We are now about to act on building resilience meaningfully and from an evidence-based perspective, observe impact of these interventions. And more significantly, this study also demonstrates that if we boost resilience in any of the four resilience domains, we can protect and advance the holistic well-being of Singaporeans.”



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