Dubai: Almost half (45 per cent) of the people employed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) revealed they are worried about their long-term health, according to a new study.
They admitted they have not had a health check in the last year and a significant number said they have no idea about the simple metrics of health such as cholesterol levels, according to new research from Aetna International, a 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, says the report.
The findings are revealed in the Business of health 2020 report, how organisations can overcome employee health inertia, 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.
Despite the fact that 94 per cent of UAE respondents say that they think about their health at least some of the time, 40 per cent admitted that they would not go to the doctor for a general health check-up unless they felt ill, and just over a quarter (27 per cent) say they are too scared to get a health check-up.
In addition, few know of basic indicators of their own health — only 35 per cent of UAE respondents know their cholesterol level and just 31 per cent 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 per cent) admitting their diet needs improvement and three quarters (75 per cent) saying they need to exercise more. When people do feel ill, however, 39 per cent say they tend to look up symptoms online and self-medicate rather than seeking out a doctor.
Catherine Darroue, Senior Director of Customer Proposition, EMEA, Aetna International, said: “While the majority of 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 per cent) of UAE employees surveyed admit that they often feel stressed because of work but don’t see a healthcare professional about the issue. Long and inflexible working hours may be to blame, as nearly a third (32 per cent) say they don’t have time to be ill at work and a quarter (25 per cent) cite lack of time off from work as the reason behind their health inertia.
Results also indicate that employers could play a bigger role in encouraging people to look after their health, with over a quarter (28 per cent) of office workers admitting they would go to the doctor if their boss told them to. Nearly half (48 per cent) 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 per cent) to get regular check-ups, and an almost equal number (35 per cent) would like the use of an app or online service.
“Expanding access to healthcare 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.
• Over a third (39 per cent) say they tend to look up symptoms online and self-medicate rather than seeking out a doctor
• Half (50 per cent) of those surveyed admit that they often feel stressed because of work but don’t see a health care professional about the issue
• Nearly a third (32 per cent) say they don’t have time to be ill at work
• A quarter (25 per cent) cite lack of time off from work as the reason behind their health inertia
• Better access to online health consultations would encourage nearly a third (34 per cent) to get regular check-ups, while over a third (35 per cent) would like the use of an app or online service