People who live in private estates are more likely to be effectively treated for a thyroid disorder, according to a new study published by SingHealth Polyclinics.

The study, released yesterday, looked at 229 patients with hypothyroidism and found that people who lived in private estates were more likely to achieve normal hormone levels with medication as compared with those who lived in public estates.

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the body lacks thyroid hormone. In most cases, it results in those with the condition having slow metabolism. This can lead to lethargy and, if left unchecked, thyroid cancer.

Director of research at SingHealth Polyclinics Tan Ngiap Chuan, who led the study, suggested that a reason for this could be because higher socio-economic statuses are often related to higher education levels. This group may, therefore, communicate better with their doctors and be in a better position to stick to a medication regimen, he added.

The study, which was published in February in the Medicine journal, suggested that a major issue preventing effective treatment of hypothyroidism is patients who do not adhere to the medication routine advised by their doctors. The study showed that only half of those surveyed took their medication regularly.

Dr Tan said this makes it very difficult for doctors to adjust the dosage for patients as hormone levels in the body would not be reflective of the prescription, and could cause doctors to prescribe too little or too much the next time.

Dr Cho Li Wei, a consultant at Changi General Hospital’s department of endocrinology and co-author of the paper, said it was important for people to remember that treating hypothyroidism is a lifelong commitment and they cannot stop halfway.

Thyroid disorders are most common in women aged 20 to 50. Women are also four times more likely to develop a thyroid disorder than men.