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Wedding rings Image Credit: Agency

Abu Dhabi: Young Emiratis have cited high dowries, along with cost of living and ceremonies, as the main reasons for not getting married, in the National Survey of Youth Wellbeing and Development which was made public on Monday.

Conducted over a period of one year from 2017 to 2018 by the Emirates Foundation, the nationwide survey saw the participation of 6,600 Emiratis between the ages of 15-30.

The survey focused on 14 different pillars related to young Emiratis including education, work, health, marriage and family, behaviour, financial planning, free time and technology.

“This youth survey is the first of its kind and aims to provide an accurate reflection on the challenges, objectives and priorities for young Emiratis,” said Maytha Al Habsi, chief executive officer at Emirates Foundation, on the sidelines of the group’s Social Investment Forum.

“All of the data and responses we have collected will act as a baseline for future programmes and initiatives undertaken by us and other entities that want to contribute to youth development,” she added.

“In the past there was a lack of research in certain areas, today thanks to this survey we have identified 14 pillars where we now clearly understand the needs of the youth. We can filter the details by several different categories, sub categories, age, gender and status. This is going to be a huge youth reference resource for us,” she said.

Al Habsi said the Emirates Foundation has only made six of its indices available to the public, with the rest to be shared in private with both government and private sector entities that are looking to develop youth programmes.

“We won’t be sharing all of it in public, the rest of the survey’s details will be given to those who show serious interest in working on some of the specific challenges we have identified through the research.

“The information we have can be used by not only the Emirates Foundation, but also by government ministries, private entities, non government organisations and entrepreneurs that are looking to design projects that target the youth,” she added.

Survey findings

Among the survey’s main findings was that on marriage and family life, with 22.7 per cent of respondents citing high dowries as one of the main reasons for either stopping or delaying them from getting married. This was followed by high living costs, high costs of marriage and pre-marriage ceremonies and difficulty in finding housing with reasonable prices.

When it came to the best age for getting married, most respondents identified the age of 25 as the most suitable for men (34.7 per cent) and 20 years for women (25.5 per cent).

On health, the survey discovered that walking was the most common type of physical activity performed by young Emiratis (62.2 per cent), followed by going to the gym (26.2 per cent), physical activities carried out as part of their daily work duties (22.2 per cent) and cycling (9.7 per cent).

When it came to symptoms related to their psychological well-being, 19.6 per cent of respondents said they had feelings of pressure, anxiousness and anger.

Eighteen per cent said they had negative thoughts about life, 15.9 per cent said they had difficulty in making decisions, 8.6 per cent said they suffered from some kind of phobia, 8.4 per cent said they were losing interest in their surroundings and 6.1 per cent said they were crying more than usual.

In terms of body weight, the survey found that 47 per cent of males had a normal weight, 34 per cent were overweight, 15 per cent were obese and four per cent were underweight. In comparison, 53 per cent of females had a normal weight, 26 per cent were overweight, 12 per cent were obese and eight per cent were found to be underweight.

The average sleeping hours was 7.3 hours among all respondents.

On average, the majority of respondents said they only had 4.6 hours of free time during a day with resting (33.9 per cent) cited as their main activity during their free time. Coming after was watching television (22.8 per cent), exercising (21.1 per cent) and reading (16.4 per cent).

The average time spent on the internet was 4.47 hours, with most of that time going toward social purposes (56.60 per cent), educational (27.50 per cent), work (7.10 per cent) and business (6.90 per cent).

The majority of young people who took part in the survey said they had ambitions of entering an entrepreneurial project and business (55.5 per cent), with most of them based in Abu Dhabi (43 per cent), Dubai and Sharjah (17 per cent), Ras Al Khaimah (nine per cent), Fujairah (eight per cent) and Umm Al Quwain (two per cent).

natl survey of youth wellbeing
What the survey found Image Credit: Arab Youth Survey 2019