UAE residents ‘health inertia’ is a rising risk: survey

By Eudore R. Chand

DUBAI 7 February 2020: Although almost half (45%) of workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) revealed they are worried about their long-term health, they admit they haven’t had a health check in the last year.

Also, a significant number have no idea about simple metrics of health, such as cholesterol levels, according to new research from Aetna International, a leading global health benefits provider.

Inflexible and long working hours are compounding the problem, as employees feel unable to take time off to manage their health.

The findings are revealed in the Business of Health 2020 reports, which explores the attitudes to health of 4,000 office workers in the UAE, USA, UK and Singapore, focusing on the health fears of today’s workers and probing the gaps in their own health knowledge.

Too Scared

Despite the fact that 94% of UAE respondents say that think about their health at least some of the time, 40% admitted that they would not go to the doctor for a general health checkup unless they felt ill, and just over a quarter (27%) say they are too scared to get a health check.

To compound this, very few know basic indicators of their own health – only 35% of UAE respondents know their cholesterol level and just 31% their body fat percentage. However, when compared to respondents from the other countries surveyed, overall, employees in the UAE and Singapore have a better knowledge of health measurements like blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI) than those in the US or UK.

Most UAE workers acknowledge they could do more to improve their health, with over half (56%) admitting their diet needs improvement and three quarters (75%) saying they need to exercise more. When people do feel ill, however, 39% say they tend to look up symptoms online and self-medicate rather than seeking out a doctor.

Employer Role

Catherine Darroue, Senior Director of Customer Proposition, Emea, Aetna International, said: “While the majority of

Catherine Darroue

workers are aware they need to do more to improve their health, fear and worry are causing a huge number to avoid the situation. More should be done to empower people to manage their own health, with a focus on changing company cultures to promote prevention and early intervention. It is not only the responsibility of the employee but also that of the employer to ensure people are equipped to lead healthy lives.”

Increasing pressure in the workplace is having a significant impact on how people prioritise their health. Half (50%) of UAE employees surveyed admit that they often feel stressed because of work but don’t see a health care professional about the issue. Long and inflexible working hours may be to blame, as nearly a third (32%) say they don’t have time to be ill at work and a quarter (25%) cite lack of time off from work as the reason behind their health inertia.

Taking Time Off

Results also indicate that employers could play a bigger role in encouraging people to look after their health, with over a quarter (28%) of office workers admitting they would go to the doctor if their boss told them to. Nearly half (48%) also said the ability to take time off work to go to the doctor would encourage them to make an appointment.

Additionally, better access to online health consultations would encourage just over a third (34%) to get regular check-ups, and an almost equal number (35%) would like the use of an app or online service.

“Expanding access to health care is imperative to ensure today’s time poor workers prioritise their health. Technology can undoubtedly play a role here, but businesses also need to ensure they create a culture where people can talk about and take time for their health needs,” concluded Catherine.