Spiritual healers still in demand

News Straits Times | KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 2005: Malaysians strongly prefer modern medicine, but will turn unhesitatingly to spiritual healers for severe or inexplicable ailments. In a nationwide survey carried out late last year, 90 per cent of respondents said they would readily turn to doctors and specialists – but one in eight also said they trusted spiritual healers. Malays registered the highest level of such trust on spiritual healers, at 82 per cent, while the Chinese were the lowest at 42 per cent. The poll, conducted by Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research, also revealed that a third of Malaysians have tried spiritual healing methods in the past, seeking help from the bomoh, monks or priests. Interestingly, those who seek spiritual help cut across all divides of ethnicity, age, gender, education and rural/urban areas.

The only significant difference is that those in higher income groups do not trust faith healers as much as those who earn less. Prof Shamsul Amri Baharuddin of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said the decision to turn to spiritual healers was not irrational. It made political and economic sense, because such help could be friendlier and more accessible. There is no bureaucracy separating the sick person and the healer. Hence, it would be natural for the poor to seek traditional or alternative help. People in the higher income bracket, he said, would go to doctors because they lived in urban areas and would be covered by medical insurance. Shamsul said he was not surprised that Malaysian society was comfortable with both modern and traditional healers. “It is a demonstration of our tolerance and acceptance of different world views,” he said; “of our ability to operate in two different systems.” “Each healing method has its strong points.

” Our problem is, when we discuss and compare them, the negative elements are usually highlighted. “Yes, we read and hear about bomohs raping young and unsuspecting women, but there are also doctors facing malpractice suits.” The modern medicine man, Shamsul added, could not handle everything. When there are different healing systems, people can seek refuge in the one that gives them most comfort and meaning. The poll of over 800 respondents, supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, is the second in a series tailored for the New Straits Times. The first, last November, looked at how Malaysians managed daily work and other pressures. In the second survey, which focused on lifestyle and health issues, it was revealed that two-thirds of Malaysians had no medical insurance coverage. Malays were least likely to have coverage (76 per cent), as compared to the Indians (48 per cent) and the Chinese (41 per cent).

Coverage was expectedly lowest among the young, but also worrisomely absent among those 50 and above. Of those with insurance coverage, 80 per cent acquired it themselves while 10 per cent were covered by employers. This data tallies with the high percentage of Malays (74 per cent) and Indians (54 per cent) who favoured public healthcare. Two-thirds of those in rural areas opt for public hospitals, against fewer than half – 42 per cent -who live in urban centres. Despite the constant complaints and letters to newspapers about the quality of care in public hospitals, 69 per cent reported that they were satisfied with service from such hospitals. Malays (38 per cent) and Indians (51 per cent) were more satisfied with public medical facilities, compared to only five per cent of Chinese respondents expressing such sentiments. On areas needing improvement, waiting time was cited as the most critical. The poll also found that two-thirds of Malaysians visit the doctor at least once a year. Less than one in 10 did not go to a doctor at all, while Malays and Indians tended to report the highest number of visits.

The Chinese tend to self-medicate or take home remedies. Finally, the poll noted that cancer invoked the greatest concern among most Malaysians (31 per cent), followed by heart problems (15 per cent) and diabetes (11 per cent). Almost half of the Chinese respondents were not at all concerned about this, perhaps indicating how health is seen as an integral part of one’s luck and fortune. Compared to the Chinese, the Malays and Indians were inordinately concerned about illnesses. Overall, the poll found that despite the concerns of respective ethnic groups, nearly two-thirds of Malaysians felt they were in “good” or “extremely good” health.

One in six Malaysians stressed out by work – Rose Ismail, New Straits Times.

New Straits Times. | KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 2004: Feeling tired, listless and dreading work? You are not alone. One in six working Malaysians in a nationwide poll says he is stressed out by work and, for almost as many, this is compounded by money problems. The poll, on how Malaysians balance work and life issues, also reveals that respondents in government service are least stressed and those at the other end of the scale are workers in sales and retail. Apart from work and money, other major causes of stress are health, children, parents and family. Interestingly, even though work is the biggest stress factor, employers and bosses only affect a small number of working Malaysians (five per cent).

This could be read in two ways: that people are generally uncomfortable talking about personal matters or, that stress is caused by several factors and not just work. To relieve stress, most Malaysians claim they try to relax or think positive thoughts. A substantial number seek comfort in family members. Women, especially, turn to friends, colleagues and bosses. Outside of the work environment, family outings are seen as stress-relievers for some people but only a small number (five per cent) see holidays as the answer to reduce stress. A probably explanation for this is that the poll, in reflecting the national census, has a wider band of respondents from the lower middle and working classes. For such groups, work is stoically accepted as the only way to make ends meet. More than 600 people were interviewed in the poll conducted by Merdeka Center, a social research organisation sponsored by the Friedrich Nauman Foundation.

Findings indicate that women are better able to ignore stress and that a small number of respondents deal with pressures by keeping to themselves or acquiring a “couldn’t-care- less” attitude. Prayers console some 12 per cent who are stressed out. As expected, sports is more a stress-reducer for men than women but the number of men who do turn to such activities (10 per cent) is surprisingly small. Unlike our Western counterparts, only one male respondent has turned to counselling to sort out his stress-related problems. Women are either reluctant to talk about it or do not see therapy as an option. Malaysians prefer more money to leisure Money, more than leisure time, will assure Malaysians a better quality of life.

Across almost all age groups and job sectors, this finding stands out prominently in a nationwide poll conducted last week. The emphasis given to money may explain why one in five people, as reported in today’s New Straits Times, has taken on additional work to supplement the family income. It could also be linked to the fact that one in 10 people consider his income inadequate and one in three say his wages are not enough to make ends meet. Yet, despite the preoccupation with money, all those interviewed said they were satisfied with what little free time they had for themselves and their families. Surprisingly, the quest for more money also crosses the retirement line with those above 55 indicating that money was more important than leisure time.

But, intriguingly, this trend is bucked by those between the ages of 50 and 55, people who are presumably tired of work and getting ready for retirement. Workers in the production, transport and labour sectors polled highest (64 per cent) in wanting money more than time but those in the professional, technical and managerial fields appeared slightly ambivalent about this. Although they noted the importance of money, a fair number wanted more time to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Only teachers and lecturers valued time more than money, polling 51 per cent for time and 46 per cent for money. Coincidentally, teachers, professional and some government workers bring work to be completed at home. The poll of more than 600 people, conducted by Merdeka Center which has been tracking public opinion for three years, also revealed other interesting points about the Malaysian worker: * that most people are generally satisfied with their jobs and the hours spent at work; * that half the respondents work a 40-hour week and the other half, between 40 and 60 hours a week.

Yet, there appears to be a high level of job satisfaction among those who work long hours; * that most people find their working environment comfortable; * that two-thirds prefer staying in their jobs as opposed to job-hopping as a means to secure better pay; * that a large majority take pride in the work they do. A further breakdown of the findings also indicates that Malays are least likely to change jobs because they value permanency; the Chinese are more likely to change jobs in search of more pay; the better-educated are more confident about looking for jobs and better-paid people stay longer in their jobs. Ibrahim Suffian, Merdeka Center programme director said, overall findings show that Malaysians were reasonable, practical, able to cope with changing conditions and generally optimistic about life. “Tough as it may be for some of them, I do hear many say that life outside of Malaysia is more difficult. So, we should just try harder.”

42% of Malaysians worry about the rising cost of living – Rose Ismail, New Straits Times.

New Straits Times. | KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 2004: The cost of living has overtaken crime, domestic politics, education and national security as the issue of greatest concern to most Malaysians today. This is in sharp contrast to less than three months ago, when crime topped the list, with the economy trailing far behind. In August, more than 61 per cent of Malaysians were volubly worried about snatch theft and robbery.

A “moral panic” surfaced, with politicians, police, NGOs and groups of citizens looking for ways to curb the high incidence of crime, especially in urban areas. Since then, rising costs have elbowed aside the criminals: 42 per cent of working Malaysians now say this is their most critical concern.

Even the release of former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the heated debates on money politics in recent weeks made scant impression: only 10 per cent of those polled said domestic politics was the most important issue today. Fewer respondents are affected by troubles in southern Thailand and the recent bombings in Indonesia. Although statistically insignificant, three people said the hate-mail received by singer Siti Nurhaliza was of greater concern. The poll was conducted by Merdeka Centre, a social-research organisation, and sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Findings will appear only in this newspaper. More than 600 people took part in the random survey, which has a 4.3 per cent margin of error. Ethnicity, gender and state of residence were all taken into strict account to ensure a fair spread of views.

The poll, conducted last weekend amid news of rising costs of petrol, chicken and other items, indicates that Malaysians in the lower-income groups are especially anxious about household and year-end expenses, especially for school-going children. Those in the higher income brackets are more worried about their housing loans. That nearly one in five respondents is engaged in additional work to supplement the family income suggests that many are struggling to stay above water. Ibrahim Suffian, Merdeka Centre programme director, said the results should persuade policy-makers to concentrate on lower-income groups. More than 75 per cent of people earning between RM750 and RM1,500 a month indicated they earned “just enough”.

This “cukup makan” category is likely to suffer first and most when prices of daily items go up. Forty-seven per cent of respondents manage on double incomes, with 41 per cent saying their spouses worked full-time to help make ends meet. Ibrahim said, however, overall findings indicate that Malaysians are “remarkable people”, coping with rising costs by making the necessary adjustments, and many are able to live within their means. But, he added, they may feel the pinch when the cost of food and other daily necessities goes up.

Merdeka Center