SINGAPORE: Fewer young people aged between 16 and 25 are donating blood, with the number of youth donors decreasing by 13 per cent between 2012 and 2016.
According to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), more than 73,000 people donated blood last year, contributing blood to around 30,000 patients. Of these, 19,868 donors were aged between 16 and 25 - a drop from the 22,673 donors in 2012.
This is amid the backdrop of growing demand, with blood usage increasing at an annual rate of 3 to 5 per cent - a demand compounded by a rapidly ageing population, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at an event commemorating World Blood Donor Day on Saturday (Jun 10).
"On one hand, an ageing population means blood demands will increase. The elderly are more likely to develop age-related medical diseases," said Mr Gan.
"On the other hand, our blood donor pool may shrink, as regular donors can no longer give blood if ill health strikes when they get older."
He added that an average of 600 regular donors stop donating blood each year due to age-related illnesses, and urged more people to step forward to give blood.
Currently, Singapore's need for blood is being met by 1.8 per cent of the residential population, HSA said.
Saturday's event, which was organised by the National Blood Programme - jointly run by Singapore Red Cross and HSA - also recognised a total of 1,257 individuals for their regular blood contributions. These included 13 people who supplied blood on more than 200 occasions.
One of them was 57-year-old Martin Marini, who starting giving blood when he was a junior college student. “My schoolmates and I thought it would be a good idea to invite the mobile blood bank. So we went ahead and ... lined up students to come forward to give blood,” he said.
“We didn’t know at the time but about two weeks later, the Spyros tanker disaster occurred,” the lawyer recalled, referring to a major industrial accident involving a tanker which exploded at a shipyard, killing 76 people.
“There were a lot of casualties ... and I remember the Government put out many calls for blood donors to come forward because they needed blood. When that incident occurred it made us all aware of how important donating blood was.”
Since then, Mr Marini has been a regular blood donor, having given blood more than 200 times over the last 39 years. "It’s one way to give back to the community. It’s my favourite form of social work – it’s the only social work I can do lying down," he joked.
TACKLING COMPLACENCY, INCONVENIENCE IN DONATING BLOOD
Young people in Singapore today do not see blood donation as a priority due to their many commitments such as career and studies, Singapore Red Cross secretary general Benjamin William said.
Mr William added that most people in Singapore are able to get blood when they need it. As such, it may lead to a sense of complacency, where members of the public think: "Someone else has donated, so I don't need to donate."
"I think this is something we need to fight," he said.
To do so, the Singapore Red Cross has tried making blood donations as convenient as possible, such as by bringing blood banks to the community.
“But we still need to convince young people this is something urgent, that this is (a) national priority,” said Mr William.
To encourage more youths to give blood regularly, the National Blood Programme plans to continue its outreach efforts. Such efforts include its Missing Type Campaign launched last year, which saw more than 60 organisations remove the letters A, B and O from their branding - resulting in a 16 per cent increase in blood donations the month it was launched.