UAE Migrant Workers Vulnerable to Lifestyle Diseases

UAE Migrant Workers Vulnerable to Lifestyle DiseasesUAE Migrant Workers Vulnerable to Lifestyle Diseases

A high number of young male migrant workers from South Asia are developing hypertension, obesity and cardiac problems after adopting the UAE lifestyle especially those who have been in the country for over six years, a study has found.

The first population-based study among migrant workers done in the country also finds that drivers, shopkeepers, salesmen and construction workers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh had the highest levels of blood pressure while agriculture workers had the lowest BP levels.

Diabetes was found to be highest in hotel and hospitality industry workers and was attributed to availability of free food, said Syed Mahboob Shah, associate professor, Institute of Public Health, College of Medicine and Health Sciences at the United Arab Emirates University, reports

Dr. Shah conducted the questionnaire-based study among 1,375 workers (average age of 34 years) in Abu Dhabi between 2012 and 2013. The average monthly income of those surveyed was 1,828 dirham ($498) and 68% had migrated from rural villages.

The study findings suggest a diminished ‘Healthy Migrant Effect’ with increased years of residency due to a transition in lifestyle behaviors.

“At least 75% were unaware of their health condition because of lack of regular health checks as compared to 99% of Emiratis who are screened for lifestyle diseases,” said Shah.

As many as 559 Bangladeshis, 433 Indians and 383 Pakistanis and were asked questions related to non-communicable disease (NCDs) in the study that was published in the BioMed Central health journal last year.

It was found that 616 (44%) of those surveyed became overweight within 10 years of their stay in the UAE, and 16% were obese, especially those who were involved in sedentary occupations (75% among drivers, 86.7% among shop keepers and businessmen, 70.6% among tailors).

Hypertension was present in 419 (30%) of the sample and diabetes in 9% of the sub-sample.

“Around 65% of the UAE population is economic migrants from the low and middle income countries of South Asia who said Shah.

Changes in diet with a substantial increase in overall energy and fat intake due to the accessibility and availability of energy-dense foods and snacks were among the reasons for the increasing health issues.

“South Asian populations (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal) contribute to the highest proportion of the burden of cardiovascular diseases compared with any other region globally,” said Shah.

On average, a South Asian will suffer from a heart attack at the age of 48 as compared to an Emirati at 61 years and other Arab nationals at 53 years.”