Why wellness in Singapore’s communal living is important

Why wellness in Singapore’s communal living is important

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Why wellness in Singapore’s communal living is important

Fostering Mental Wellness: The Imperative for Singapore's Communal Living Spaces.

[Singapore, 01 Feb 2024] – Mental health well-being has become a significant focus in Singapore in recent times.
The government launched the National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy in October 2023, emphasizing the importance of mental health for Singaporeans.
This strategy is designed to foster an effective mental health ecosystem, ensuring accessible and quality clinical care, along with a supportive community. The Ministry of Health (MOH) highlighted the equal importance of preventive care and treatment, advocating for normalizing mental health discussions.
An Ipsos World Mental Health Day 2023 Global Report revealed that a large majority of Singaporeans consider mental wellness as crucial as physical health. This perception is in line with global views, underscoring the need for a holistic approach to health.
Singapore’s focus on mental well-being also aligns with its economic interests. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has identified wellness as a key element in its future tourism offerings, including events like the Wellness Festival, to attract tourists and business travelers. The wellness tourism sector is poised for significant growth, potentially reaching USD1.3 trillion by 2025.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has articulated a vision for Singapore to become a Blue Zone 3.0, characterized by a healthier lifestyle as a societal norm.
Blue Zones are regions known for the longevity and robust health of their populations. This goal involves creating an environment conducive to wellness and mental health, with initiatives by various national and private organizations, including the National University of Singapore and National University Health System’s Mind Science Centre.
Integrating wellness strategies in co-living spaces
Co-living spaces can potentially take on an active role in promoting mental wellness.
Co-living has become a popular choice for young adults, offering an affordable and accessible housing option. Successful cohousing examples such as Vinderhoute Cohousing Project, Belgium and Svanholm, Denmark, where residents share communal facilities, have been shown to decrease isolation, particularly in seniors, and enhance the quality of life and mental health of residents.
They foster mutual support and create a sense of community, crucial in a high-density living environment like Singapore.
However, co-living environments also present challenges, such as the risk of isolation leading to depression.
To mitigate this, shared spaces need to be designed, planned and programmed to encourage social connections, networking, and learning, aiding in building lasting friendships.
Why are people so stressed out?
In Singapore’s highly dense urban environment, several factors contribute to increased stress levels among residents.
The limited availability of land and the resultant space constraints have led to smaller living areas compared to previous decades.
This, coupled with a lack of natural hinterlands, intensifies the feeling of being cramped and contributes to daily stress.
The digital era has ushered in a fast-paced and competitive work culture, exacerbated by the rise of the internet and digital technologies.
This environment often leads to extended working hours, blurring the lines between professional and personal life, especially with the increasing adoption of hybrid work models.
Additionally, Singapore’s high cost of living, as evidenced by its ranking as the most expensive city in the world in the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey released on 30 November, places further strain on residents, particularly those in middle and lower income brackets.
A study by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) during the pandemic revealed concerning levels of mental health issues among the Singapore population, with significant percentages suffering from clinical depression, anxiety, and stress.
These findings suggest the need for ongoing research, especially in the post-pandemic era, where new challenges such as rising healthcare costs add to the existing pressures.
Design for wellness has to start early
Addressing these issues requires early intervention in designing, planning and programming environments conducive to mental wellness.
This involves a holistic approach to spatial design, including the incorporation of biophilic elements, quiet spaces, and communal areas to enhance mental health.
The National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy of Singapore emphasizes the importance of a stigma-free environment, facilitating easy access to mental health services and support.
Innovative design approaches, such as salutogenic designs, which are used in healthcare settings to improve patient recovery, can be adapted for co-living spaces.
These designs aim to reduce stress and foster community interaction, which is essential for mental health.
Technology also plays a significant role in enhancing accessibility to mental wellness resources.
Digital platforms and apps focusing on mental wellness, like Safe Space that offers live online support, are becoming increasingly popular.
Collaboration with mental health experts in co-living spaces is critical for implementing effective mental wellness programs, normalizing discussions about well-being, and providing early detection and support for those in need.
Community engagement and continuous feedback are vital in shaping relevant mental wellness initiatives and ensuring their effectiveness.
Programs like the Mind Science Centre’s Age Well Everyday, which supports community aging well, are examples of such initiatives
Wellness Is A Way of Life
In the context of modern living environments, the emphasis on mental wellness and the implementation of wellness programs have become increasingly important.
Recognizing that individuals spend a significant portion of their day at work, often more than a third, the integration of wellness strategies in both work and living spaces is essential.
One prominent approach to enhancing wellness in workspaces is the use of biophilic design.
This design philosophy incorporates elements of nature, such as greenery, into the built environment.
Examples of this approach can be seen at Second Home and The Initial Residence at 355 Balestier Road, where natural elements are used to create a more calming and healthier work environment.
Wellness initiatives should not be an exceptional practice but rather a standard aspect of culture.
This approach extends beyond traditional office spaces to include co-living and co-working environments, reflecting the changing societal norms and the increasing prevalence of such spaces.
In line with this, the Singapore Land Authority has announced plans to allocate more state properties for co-living purposes. These co-living spaces, distinct from conventional residential models, require unique integration strategies.
They need to be developed as independent communities, quite different from the typical networks which under the People’s Association umbrella.
This shift calls for a thoughtful approach to ensure that these spaces effectively support the well-being of their residents.
The Singapore government, through its National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy, has laid out a vision for the future where mental wellness is a fundamental component of the overall well-being of its citizens.
This strategy outlines the need for a comprehensive and integrative approach to mental health, considering the various facets of daily life, from work to living environments.
The successful execution and integration of these wellness strategies are crucial.
The goal is to foster a society where mental well-being is regarded as vital as other basic needs, ensuring a holistic approach to health that encompasses both physical and mental aspects.
This vision advocates for a paradigm shift in how mental wellness is perceived and addressed within the societal fabric of Singapore.

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