For Immediate Release
January 19, 2022
TSX/NYSE/PSE: MFC SEHK: 945
Hong Kong – The majority of people in Hong Kong accept that COVID-19 is here to stay for at least another year amid concerns about their personal finance and health, while there’s also a desire to learn more about “Long COVID” and to purchase additional insurance, according to the latest Manulife Asia Care Survey1.
More than 8,000 people were interviewed across eight Asian markets for the third round of the survey. Among the 1,000 respondents in Hong Kong, 59% think COVID-19 will last another 12 months at least, with one fifth saying it will never end. Yet, amid the widespread concerns about COVID-19 and its impact on the public, the research also showed a remarkable lack of awareness about “Long COVID”, with just 15% familiar with the condition compared to 35% regionally. “Long COVID” is an issue that has increased in relevance now with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus.
Low awareness but strong appetite to learn about “Long COVID”
According to the World Health Organization, around a quarter of people who have had the virus experience symptoms that continue for at least a month, but one in ten still feel unwell after 12 weeks. The symptoms which have been generally described as “Long COVID” can seriously impact people’s ability to return to work or have a social life2.
While the symptoms of “Long COVID” share some similarities with seasonal influenza, its potential long-term impact is not fully appreciated or understood by the majority of people in Hong Kong, with two thirds even confessing that they had not heard of it before the survey.
After learning about “Long COVID” during the survey, 86% of respondents said it is now something they worry about, with 90% of respondents keen to learn more about it. For most (56%), the top priority is how to avoid the effects of "Long COVID”. More than two in five (46%) want to know more about vaccine efficacy in preventing “Long COVID”. Another big question for 44% of the respondents is the kind of health and care support available to deal with the condition. Over a third (35%) want to know how insurance can help them.
“With the arrival of the Omicron variant locally, it is even more critical for people to understand the long-lasting impact of ‘Long COVID’, as the lack of awareness about the condition could potentially stop consumers from taking active preventive measures,” said Damien Green, Chief Executive Officer of Manulife Hong Kong and Macau. “Since the start of the pandemic, Manulife has actively pioneered various initiatives to support the community, such as being the first insurer to give out free masks and health service vouchers; providing free ‘Special Coverage for Vaccination Side Effects’ coverage against COVID-19; and offering customers digital access to professional services from their home. We have also recently extended vaccination side effect protection as demand for the COVID booster rises.”
Majority see exercise as means to boost immunity and mental well-being
One of the more noticeable consequences of the pandemic is the decline in Hong Kongers’ perceived health status, in particular physical health. Among those surveyed, just 45% said they were in good physical health, down from 55% in 2020 and the lowest in the region (average 66%).
Around one third of those surveyed (32%) said they have exercised more during the pandemic. In general, people in Hong Kong view regular exercise as a way to boost their immunity (64%) and help their mental well-being (56%). For the majority (56%), exercise takes the form of walking or hiking.
Hong Kongers’ assessment of their mental health has dipped a little, with 47% saying it was good compared to 49% in 2020. Yet, more than half (58%) said they have experienced some mental health issues in the past six months, such as significant tiredness, low energy or problems with sleeping (35%).
Isabella Lau, Chief Customer Officer of Manulife Hong Kong, said: “Manulife strives to foster better health and well-being for our customers and community, and we believe engaging in a more active lifestyle helps to achieve that goal. With our industry-leading health products and home-grown behavioural insurance platform, ManulifeMOVE, we encourage our customers to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle by rewarding every step they take.”
Despite high insurance penetration, demand remains strong
In Hong Kong, COVID-19 continues to fuel demand for insurance as people look to stay in control of their own health and financial well-being, with just over a third (35%) expressing concern that the local economy will take a long time to recover. Around half (47%) of the respondents said that insurance has grown in importance to them since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Hong Kong’s insurance density and penetration is already the highest in the world for life insurance.3 Yet the appetite for new or additional insurance remains strong, with 65% saying they plan to purchase insurance products in the coming 12 months. Health and savings insurance covering critical illness, endowment/savings and hospitalization top the list for people looking to buy insurance.
Commenting further on the survey findings, Mr. Green said: “We have been with Hong Kong’s communities and our customers every step of the way through the pandemic. We will continue to leverage our expertise to expand and broaden our tailored healthcare services and offerings to make our customers' lives better every day.”
About Manulife Hong Kong
Manulife Hong Kong, through Manulife International Holdings Limited, owns Manulife (International) Limited, Manulife Investment Management (Hong Kong) Limited and Manulife Provident Funds Trust Company Limited. As a member of the Manulife group of companies, Manulife Hong Kong offers a diverse range of protection and wealth products and services to individual and corporate customers in Hong Kong and Macau.
Manulife Financial Corporation is a leading international financial services provider that helps people make their decisions easier and lives better. With our global headquarters in Toronto, Canada, we provide financial advice and insurance, operating as Manulife across Canada, Asia, and Europe, and primarily as John Hancock in the United States. Through Manulife Investment Management, the global brand for our global wealth and asset management segment, we serve individuals, institutions and retirement plan members worldwide. At the end of 2020, we had more than 37,000 employees, over 118,000 agents, and thousands of distribution partners, serving over 30 million customers. As of September 30, 2021, we had CAD$1.4 trillion (HK$8.6 trillion) in assets under management and administration, and in the previous 12 months we made CAD$31.6 billion in payments to our customers.
Our principal operations are in Asia and Canada, and the United States, where we have served customers for more than 155 years. We trade as 'MFC' on the Toronto, New York, and the Philippine stock exchanges and under '945' in Hong Kong. Not all offerings are available in all jurisdictions. For additional information, please visit manulife.com.
1 This version of the Manulife Asia Care Survey was conducted via online self-completed questionnaires in eight markets, namely mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam. A total of 8,276 people, aged 25 to 60 years old, was surveyed in November 2021. In Hong Kong, 1,000 people were surveyed. They included insurance owners and those who did not own insurance but intend to buy it.
2 World Health Organization, “In the wake of the pandemic: preparing for Long COVID (2021)”
3 Insurance Authority, “Mortality Protection Gap Study 2021”