UAE : Majority Residents Have Unhealthy Life Styles - Survey

Source : The National

UAE - JAN 22 : Many UAE residents skip breakfast, do little exercise and eat junk food when they are stressed, despite knowing full well that such behaviour is bad for them, according to an online survey.

More than 70 per cent of those who responded to the poll said they drink less water than recommended and at least one in five avoided any sort of physical activity.

More than a quarter dismissed taking vitamins as a waste.

Emiratis and Indian and Arab expatriates answered questions about their health and fitness for the survey conducted by Zarca Interactive, a US-based company with offices in Dubai.

Of the 300 residents who answered the survey, a third of whom identified themselves as female, 20 per cent said they did not eat breakfast.

In addition, half of those who identified themselves as Emiratis said they consumed less than one large bottle of water per day, compared to 33 per cent of Arab expatriates and 24 per cent of Asian expatriates.

“People know what it means to be healthy and know the basics, like having to exercise, having to drink plenty of water, making sure they eat breakfast”, said Dana Bardakji, a nutritionist at Dr Walaa Fakher Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi.

“They just don’t bother making it a part of their lives unless they want to diet.”

More than a quarter of respondents said they do not supplement their diet with vitamins, either because of the cost or believing they were not beneficial.

As suggested by Ms Bardakji, however, awareness of what constitutes healthy eating was high, especially among those aged between 16 and 24. Less than five per cent of that group said they did not know what a healthy diet was.

Nazneen Khwaja, a Dubai-based nutritionist, said UAE residents had become used to an “easy, overly luxurious lifestyle”.

“People never walk anymore or burn calories; they get in their air-conditioned cars to avoid the heat and head to cafes and restaurants to snack and eat, which has become their social activity,” said Ms Khwaja.

“Kids and teenagers are allowed to sleep in and skip their breakfast, everyone drinks fizzy drinks and juices instead of water, and it is hard to pick up healthy habits once you’ve become used to being unhealthy.”

Last month, the World Health Organisation’s Eastern Mediterranean regional office warned that the consequences of nutritional disorders in the region were “too grave to be ignored”, and called for urgent action to combat obesity and diabetes.

“The results of this study make absolute sense, when you take into account the rise in chronic diseases in the UAE,” said Ms Khwaja.

The study also found that 16.3 per cent of respondents, most of them Emiratis, turned to comfort foods to relieve stress.

More than half, mostly Asian nationals, chose electronic gadgets to relieve stress instead of physical activity. Of the third who said they exercised at least three times per week, most said their activity was walking.

“A third of the population is obese, and it is little wonder,” said Ms Khwaja, who said working parents too often choose to feed their children fast food instead of home-cooked meals.


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Comment on this article

  • Stany D'sa, Balehonnur/Dubai

    Sun, Jan 24 2010

    All is well provided if you eat within limits. One has to enjoy food at all levels of age.In U.A.E. people are busy and have very good - lavish life style.It is a wonderful place to live in like any other western country.But one has to creat some time to keep physically fit. Regular exercise is required, especially if anyone spend about 20-30 minutes in basic breathing exercise as prescribed by yoga Guru Ramdev, I think it is just enouhg to keep you fit and fine.

    Unhealthy life style can be changed if there is awarenes in our food intake. Nobody is forcing you to eat recklessly,instead you need strong will power to help yourself. Parents do play a vital role in their childrens food habits. prevention is better than cure. Regular exercise is the Mantra.

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  • Dev, Mangalore

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    Expatriates working in gulf countries are overburdened with work, tensions,anxiety about their jobs-they skip breakfast to avoid traffic jams in the morning, they work for 12to 18 hours per day They hardly have energy in the evening to exercise. They consume more junk food & overindulge on drinks in holidays, which finally leads to obesity and related complications of unhealthy lifestyle-hypertension,diabetes,heart problems& stroke leading to early death or loosing health as well as wealth at the end.In Most of the cases their family members only know them by the money they spent on them while they were working. Their family ties suffer as well, which could have supported them in the end, (for which )they sacrificed their today for their future.

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  • Felix F., India/Ksa

    Sat, Jan 23 2010

    Though it is said "Health is Wealth" yet nobody in the gulf (to whom money is wealth) want to nurture this health wealth, untill they loose it. People working in the Gulf for that matter be it UAE-Saudi Arabia - or any other gulf state, are so stressed and tensed not only about work situation, but with family matters, local environment etc, that thoughts about health plays a minimum part in the day to day living. People living and working in India for that matter, are a lucky lot. Majority of the Indians are now very health conscious. Dont leave India unless you are forced to do so.

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  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Fri, Jan 22 2010

    Blindly following everything western, especially fast food is a fast way to get sick with the afflications of the affluent like high blood pressure and diabetes which are the major causes to have other serious sickness like heart prblems and kindney diseases.

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