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Hazenomics! The impact on our health and wallets is anything but hazy

Singapore – The SE Asian haze has taken a financial toll on us all.

On top of medical bills, an Asia Insight survey showed that S$171 million had been spent between Sept-Oct 2015 on masks and other haze-management items. Consumers were also ready to stop buying products from haze-causing companies.

Concerned with the impact of the haze on Singaporeans’ health and spending habits, Asia Insight polled 300 Singapore residents in Oct 2015 on how the haze had impacted their health, lifestyles and leisure activities, and how much had been spent to manage or escape the haze. The survey also captured sentiments towards companies that contributed to the haze and how consumers were prepared to change their shopping behavior.

The Impact is Real

With longer queues at clinics during the period when the haze blanketed large parts of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, it was not surprising that one in three adults (34%) reported that their health had been significantly affected by the haze. The impact was higher amongst children, with half (51%) of all parents reporting that their children’s health had suffered.

However, there are other ways the haze had impacted consumers’ wallets. The average Singaporean household spent about S$143 in the affected month, buying masks, supplements, air purifiers and other items to help cope with the haze. Based on this data, Asia Insight estimates that a whopping S$171 million was spent buying these items.

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Some households had taken to short trips out of Singapore to escape the haze. 1 in 20 (5%) had done so specifically with the haze in mind, to countries like Hong Kong and Thailand. In all, these travelers spent an estimated S$82 million.

Lifestyle Changes

Inevitably, Singaporeans had to make adjustments to their lifestyle.

There was an increase in the number of hours spent watching TV (+33%) and Internet surfing (+10%). Indoor exercise increased 25% but this was countered by a sharp 69% decline in outdoor exercise. The change to a more sedentary lifestyle could have a detrimental impact in the long term.

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On the brighter side, people were reporting having more sex (+9%), perhaps all that time spent indoors could prove “productive”!

The way Singaporeans spent their money had also changed during the haze period. While the amount of money spent on Shopping in malls was flat (+1%), Asia Insight found a 50% increase in Online shopping. Spending on eating out dropped 33% but Online food delivery doubled (+102%).

Overall spending on taxi services increased 28%, benefitting both established companies as well as newer players like Uber and GrabTaxi.

Changes in spending patterns during the haze period would have inevitably produce winners and losers among businesses. With the haze expected to make recurring appearances in the years ahead, Asia Insight foresees affected businesses having to adapt or face challenging days ahead.

Shoppers are ready to vote with their wallets

Although the haze is not new and has been an unwelcome repeat visitor, the duration and intensity of the 2015 haze had prompted stronger feelings against those responsible.

This heightened awareness was also driven by moves from the Singapore authorities in taking legal action and demanding accountability from companies thought to be responsible for illegal forest burning.

Among those polled, 66% agreed that NGOs should play a role in encouraging the government to take action against companies that were contributing to the haze.

A further 68% told Asia Insight that they would consciously avoid buying products from these same errant companies. Such public support should have sent a strong signal to these companies that consumers were ready to vote with their wallets and hit them where it hurts.

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About the survey

Date of survey: 17th to 20th October 2015
Sample size: 300
Methodology: Online survey on representative panel of Singapore residents

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