Duke-NUS to roll out nationwide study to shed light on wellbeing of older persons and policy impact

Comprehensive study to understand the health, social, and psychological wellbeing of older individuals aims to provide insights for effective policies and programs that support Singapore’s ageing population.

Comprehensive study to understand the health, social, and psychological wellbeing of older individuals aims to provide insights for effective policies and programs that support Singapore’s ageing population.

Old age marks a period in life where people experience dramatic changes in their health and social circumstances—understanding the patterns and determinants of these transitions can yield important insights for Singapore’s increasingly ageing society. Beginning next month, a nationwide study to gauge the impact of policies and programmes aimed at supporting older persons and their caregivers and families will be rolled out by Duke-NUS Medical School’s Centre for Ageing Research & Education (CARE), with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of the physical, social and psychological wellbeing of older persons in Singapore.

The study will be the third wave of the "Transitions in Health, Employment, Social Engagement, and Inter-generational Transfers in Singapore Study" (THE SIGNS) Study. The first two waves were conducted in 2016 and 2019, making this one of Singapore’s most comprehensive and representative studies on ageing.

THE SIGNS Study, funded by the Ministry of Health (MOH), will collect data to support evidence-based policymaking on productive and active ageing, with a focus on the three ‘C’s outlined in the 2023 Action Plan for Successful Ageing: Care, Contribution, and Connectedness. In 2023-24, THE SIGNS Study III will provide baseline indicators for each of the three domains. In 2025-26, THE SIGNS Study IV will collect data from the same group of participants, to see how they have fared and what has changed over two years, enabling policy makers to evaluate the impact of their initiatives on the older population in Singapore. The study questionnaire includes questions on physical and psychological health status, quality of life, socioeconomic status, social engagement, employment and retirement, and other aspects of life at older ages, including the impact of COVID-19. 

The study aims to collect data from 10,000 older persons across Singapore. A nationally representative sample of households with at least one older Singaporean aged 60 years and older will receive an official letter jointly issued by CARE and MOH, inviting them to participate in the study. THE SIGNS Study III will collect data for about a year starting from August 2023, with face-to-face surveys and a short set of physical measurements conducted at participants' residences. Study participants will receive supermarket vouchers as a token of appreciation. 

Several countries around the world, including the USA, the UK, 28 European nations and others in Asia, such as Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand, conduct similar longitudinal studies of older persons at regular intervals. Data from THE SIGNS Study will also be aligned with the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Decade of Healthy Ageing initiative, launched in 2020, allowing the inclusion of data from Singapore in subsequent WHO reports for the Decade of Healthy Ageing. 

“As Singapore’s population ages rapidly, it is crucial to study how the health and social circumstances of older persons change over time,” said one of THE SIGNS Study’s Co-Investigators, Dr Abhijit Visaria, Senior Research Fellow at CARE. “This will help the Government design and implement policies and programmes that address the needs and aspirations of older Singaporeans in the domains of care, contribution, and connectedness—the three Cs outlined in the 2023 Action Plan for Successful Ageing, which aims to enable older persons to live well and age confidently.” 

“Our team of researchers at CARE analyses such data for developing a deeper, multifaceted understanding of the physical, social and psychological wellbeing of older Singaporeans, as well as the factors that enable and support their participation in and contributions to society,” said Principal Investigator of THE SIGNS Study, Assistant Professor Rahul Malhotra, Deputy Director and Head of Research at CARE, and a faculty member with the Health Services & Systems Research (HSSR) Programme. “Through our engagement with policy makers and dissemination of our findings through academic and non-academic presentations, policy briefs, and research articles, we aim to enhance the health and well-being of older persons and their families in Singapore.” 

Associate Professor Angelique Chan, Executive Director of CARE and a faculty member with the HSSR Programme, also Principal Investigator of THE SIGNS Study, said,We encourage all older Singaporeans who receive the study invitation letter to participate in the study and share their views and experiences. By doing so, you can add your voices to the national conversation on ageing and help us shape a better future for yourselves and your loved ones. Your participation will also support our efforts to create a more inclusive and supportive society for older persons in Singapore.” 

Professor Patrick Tan, Senior Vice-Dean for Research at Duke-NUS, said, “This research by CARE will help decision-makers understand how older Singaporeans’ lives influence their participation and value in society. With this understanding, tailored policies and programmes can be developed that offer greater opportunities to engage and participate in the wider society. Duke-NUS is privileged to be able to make such an impact in Singapore.”


Note: For more details on THE SIGNS Study, please visit our dedicated webpage at https://www.duke-nus.edu.sg/care/research/the-signs-study-iii-and-iv

Published: 31 Jul 2023

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