Tan Suee Chieh, “Covid-19: A psychological and an actuarial approach…”




Post from Tan Suee Chieh ex NTUC Income CEO and ex NTUC Enterprise CEO who is an actuarist (calculates risks of people dying or getting sick to calculate premiums to charge for insurance) its long but v sensible esp when it tells u the odds of dying from normal old age is higher than from the virus….

COVID-19 – A psychological and an actuarial approach.

There is a lot of fear of COVID-19 coronavirus. Largely, it is the fear of unknown, as this virus is new.

As Gandhi said, “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.”

As a trained psychologist and an actuary, and a student of crowd dynamics, I would like to bring a sense of perspective, different contexts and rationality into the discussion on COVID-19 to dispel fear.

As of 15 February, we have 1527 number of deaths in the last three months arising from 67,000 infections (99 % from China). These numbers are certain to rise to tens and maybe hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of infections. So when you hear about more deaths, you should not be alarmed. This is how pandemics work. For me, the increase in numbers were not particularly alarming, as they look like arithmetic progressions rather than geometric progressions.

So we do not have to be paralysed by fear of these statistics. We can be rational, objective and calm in our our response because

  1. In 2009, the H1N1 swine flu which emanated in USA caused 360,000 deaths (range 150,000 -575,000) in the first year – CDC/Lancet. And 762 million infections in the first year. (Science Alert). The fatality rate was 0.1 %. Were you panicking then?
  2. Do you know according CDC (Center of Disease Control – USA) about 40,000 people die from seasonal flus worldwide monthly? Do you worry about dying from seasonal flus?
  3. Do you know that according to WHO (World Health Organisation, a United Nations organization) on a worldwide basis,

• 65,000 die from HIV monthly
• 112,000 die from car accidents monthly
• 130,000 die from diabetes monthly, and an additional 185,000 die from high blood glucose monthly
• 250,000 die from alcoholism monthly
• 600,000 die from smoking monthly
• 1.5 m from heart disease monthly

Also, according to John Hopkins University, 20,000 die monthly from from Iatrogenic causes (medical errors) in USA alone!

Don’t you think you should worry more about the above causes of death, which are more threatening to you than COVID-19 and which you have a better control of?

Don’t you think it’s better and more productive to lose weight, have a balanced diet, exercise, drive safely, sleep well and do not imbibe too much alcohol than to worry about COVID-19 inappropriately?

But of course, I am not asking you to be reckless. I ask you to be responsible and do your part! See the MOH website.



  1. Current estimates of fatality rate of CPVID-19 is 1.5% to 2.5% but some scientists believe that eventually this rate will come closer to the swine flu of 0.1%. And PM Lee Hsien Loong implied that as well. Discovery of vaccines will of course reduce the rate to close to zero. And preliminary data suggest those who die are of vulnerable groups – those who are older and those who are already sick.

For comparison, mortality rates of Singaporeans

Age 50-54 0.376%
Age 55-59 0.619%
Age 60-64 1.318%

This mean if you are infected with nCOV-19, your chance of dying from it is quite close to a Singaporean person age 63 dying at the age of 63 of all causes. Does a 63-year-old man going around worrying he will die that year?

Please understand this. You have to get infected first. Your probability to get infected is very very low, and you can reduce this further. I will write in a separate posting on how you can reduce the rate of infection.

Lastly, if you do get infected, I can recommend things you can do to strengthen your immune system. Sleep and intermittent fasting. And, l will write on this separately later as well!

One of the philosophers I admire is Bertrand Russell. He said

“Fear is the main source of superstition… To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

If you agree with my sentiments, please share my posting.

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2 Responses to Tan Suee Chieh, “Covid-19: A psychological and an actuarial approach…”

  1. oldpoet56 says:

    Very good article, I am going to reblog this one for you.

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