Lifebuoy releases 1st ever Cost of Infections study

To mark World Hand Hygiene Day today, Lifebuoy is releasing findings from a local study on the impact of common childhood infections The Lifebuoy Cost of Infections Study, the first local study on the economic impact of common childhood infections, found the average opportunity cost associated with respiratory and skin infections, diarrhoea and Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is S$760; HFMD has the highest opportunity cost and is the only infection that crossed the S$1,000 mark1. 

Nearly six in 10 children down with respiratory and skin infections, diarrhoea and HFMD, and their parents lost up to five days of school and work respectively.

Up to seven in 10 mothers worry about the impact on their child’s education if they were absent from school because of an illness.

The Lifebuoy Cost of Infections Study also revealed that mothers spent an average of S$155, including consultation fees, medicine charges and transport costs, to treat per episode of these everyday infections. The amount paid out to treat per episode of HFMD is again the highest (S$207)[1] compared to other infections, and it is more than 70% in excess1of the average spent to treat per episode of respiratory diseases (S$121), the most common childhood infection based on theLifebuoy Cost of Infections Study. An average of S$163 and S$151 were used to treat per episode of skin infections and diarrhoea respectively.

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The incidence of HFMD soared from 6,411 cases in 2004 to 31,779 cases in 2013; an almost 400% surge in the last decade.[2] The average number of patients with acute upper respiratory tract infection seen per day at polyclinics also rose steadily over the last three weeks: 2,059, 2,248 and 2,367 patients respectively in weeks 14, 15 and 16 this year. [3] The average number of persons with acute diarrhoea seen per day at polyclinics remained relatively stable this year, maintaining around the 400+ range, stepping over 500 only twice in week three and seven this year.3

Prof Paul Anantharajah Tambyah, President, Society of Infectious Diseases (Singapore), said, "This is an important study as for the first time, the economic impact of common childhood infections in Singapore has been objectively shown. Hand hygiene has been shown across the world to be highly cost effective in reducing common childhood infections. Increasing hand hygiene at home and at school is likely to be a good way to reduce infections and save costs for the family."

The Lifebuoy Cost of Infections Study uncovered that close to three in 10 mothers think their children fall ill more frequently than they did when they were a child, and approximately one in five mothers feel their children take longer to recover. More than seven in 10 mothers believe infection-causing germs are getting stronger and harder to fight.

The Lifebuoy Cost of Infections Study showed that virtually seven in 10 mothers believe they can prevent their children from falling ill; a healthy diet was the uppermost preventive measure cited by three in five mothers; only less than one in 10 mothers mentioned regular hand washing as a precautionary method, though nine in 10 of them claimed their families do wash their hands with an anti-bacterial soap. Only about seven in 10 children washed their hands before and after food, after play and when they come home from outside.

Mr Tan I-Ren, General Manager, MindChamps PreSchool, said, "Here at MindChamps PreSchool, we have in place a comprehensive set of hygiene management practices, including the washing and sanitisation of our young Champs’ hands. Our young Champs are taught the proper technique of washing their hands and we have instilled in them a daily hand washing routine, especially after using the toilet and before having their meals/snacks. 

We conduct stringent health checks when they arrive at school. They also have to sanitise their hands before entering the premises. If a child has fever and/or display symptoms of HFMD or other infections, we will contact the parents to bring them to see the doctor."

The Lifebuoy Cost of Infections Studysurveyed 300 mothers in March this year to ascertain the impact of common childhood infections. It also sought to understand maternal attitudes on the prevention of childhood infections, in particular the importance of hand washing. All mothers surveyed had a child under 12 years old who had at least one episode of respiratory infection (flu, cough, cold and fever), skin infection (rashes, blisters and prickly heat), diarrhoea and/or HFMD in the last six months.

The Lifebuoy Cost of Infections Study was carried out in consultation with the Society of Infectious Diseases (Singapore). It was initiated by Unilever and sponsored by Lifebuoy, whose brand DNA is championing health through awareness and education on hygiene.


[1] All tabulations and assumptions on HFMD are based on a sample size of 21 mothers whose child had at least one episode of HFMD in the last six months

[2] Weekly Infectious Diseases Bulletin, Epidemiological week 52, 2004-2013, (accessed 25 April 2014)

[3] Weekly Infectious Diseases Bulletin_cases (7).xls, (accessed 25 April 2014)

About Lifebuoy

The desire to be clean, active and healthy is intrinsic to every one – irrespective of age or economic status. Lifebuoy, the world's number one germ protection soap, understands this need and champions the cause for hygiene and health around the world.

Lifebuoy is one of Unilever's oldest brands, and has been sold in countries across the world since 1894. Throughout its history, an inspiring vision for more hygienic, healthier and ultimately more vital communities is the driving force behind the Lifebuoy brand. To realise this vision, Lifebuoy has looked to consistently innovate and provide accessible hygiene and health products to a wide variety of consumers, enabling them to lead a life without fear.

Today, more than 1.6 billion people around the world trust Lifebuoy products to protect them from germs. Lifebuoy, the pioneering soap, is a true embodiment of Unilever's Vitality Mission: to help people look good, feel good and get more out of life.


Unilever Singapore Pte Ltd 

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Singapore 117439

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