Could Singapore be the most mentally prepared country to tackle the uncertainty of COVID-19?
The COVID-19 crisis is acting as a stress test for the acute mental health and anxiety amongst all populations. There are already rising cases of domestic violence* and depression.
This is a good time to search for some evidence if some cultures are more prepared in continuing to weather the storm. And how others could adapt to their strategies.
The 5-dimensional Hofstede model*, is a significant reference point to understand relative attribution of certain behavioural disposition across cultures.
In times of crisis such as now, an interesting dimension to explore is the one of Uncertainty Avoidance (UA).
As explained on Hofstede insights* -This dimension is defined as the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways.
A higher PDI score is a more anxious society in times of chaos.
Interestingly the country that scores the lowest in the UA dimension, is Singapore*  as compared with high scoring countries like Japan* , France* , Italy*  and mid-scoring nations like, China*, India* [tied at 40] and the UK .
Hofstede insights attributes such a low UA score for Singapore to its high-Power Distance Index* (PDI) .
PDI refers to a society’s acceptance of uneven distribution of power.
But there are countries like India and China, who score higher on PDI as compared to Singapore yet score higher on UA.
While there are nations that accept uneven power structures, they may not proportionately trust the intentions and actions of these more ‘powerful’ agencies when it comes to community welfare.
So how does Singapore do things differently?
Let’s focus on how the Singapore Govt. has taken some significant steps to reduce fears amongst the population times of uncertainty.
- Signalling an intent of being a step ahead: Singapore has been lauded for its early introduction of travel sanctions and widespread testing. None of the decisions seemed like a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic and keeping the panic in check through an assurance of more bandwidth.
- Coining a common social narrative: the hashtag #SGUNITED was introduced as a shorthand to reflect the desired sentimental response of the nation. It was a smart move address the expected social cracks that would begin to appear as we all went into the battle with the pandemic. Most government agencies have included this philosophy in their on going messaging.
- Singularity in actions: The PM is making regular addresses to the community on the current status and the steps being taken to manage the situation. There is avoidance of conflicting directions and hence streamlining of efforts.
- Killing speculations (Data for all): From contact tracing apps to case information, all the data is being shared in the public domain. It comes from a belief that a more informed public is also a more responsible one. Hence there is less scope for rumour mongering and fake news.
Let’s be clear, there is no silver bullet to manage the anxiety amongst the communities during this pandemic. But it is become critical for agencies of influence, including brands, to reduce the stress amongst people. While every nation is trying its best to contain the crisis, they could all potentially take a leaf out of the island state’s handbook in navigating through uncertainty.
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