Over 60% of UAE residents are overweight or obese – study
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Over 60% of UAE residents are overweight or obese – study

Over 60% of UAE residents are overweight or obese – study

Egyptians and Jordanians in the UAE were found to have the highest average BMIs among residents.


Up to 60.5 per cent of residents in the UAE are either overweight or obese according to new research released by insurance provider Zurich International Life.

The company analysed the Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 20,000 UAE residents who applied for life insurance or critical illness cover.

BMI is a weight for height index commonly used to classify underweight, overweight and obesity in adults. While a BMI range of 18.5 to 25 is considered normal, 25 to 30 is classified as overweight, and anything over 30 is categorised as obese.

The Zurich study found that 47.5 per cent of UAE residents are overweight while another 13 per cent are obese with a BMI of over 30.

The average BMI in the UAE is 25.6, implying the average resident is overweight.

The analysis also found that BMI levels tends to increase as people age. While 35 per cent of residents aged between 20-24 were found to be overweight or obese, that figure rose to 53 per cent among 30-34 year-olds, 71 per cent among 45-49 year-olds and 86 per cent among those aged between 60 and 64.

Differences were also noted between genders, with 70 per cent of men either overweight or obese with an average BMI of 26.4. For women in the UAE, the average stands at 24.2, with 41 per classified as overweight or obese.

Interestingly, Zurich’s analysis also found that nationality has a bearing on BMI. Egyptian (27.6) and Jordanian (27.2) residents in the UAE have the highest average BMI. On the other hand, Chinese nationals have the least average BMI at 23.

“Body Mass Index is one of the health indicators we measure as part of the application process for life insurance and critical illness cover,” said Chris Bagnall, chief underwriter at Zurich International Life.

“The average age of our life insurance claimants is a worryingly young age of 51 and a high BMI is associated with many of these claims.”

The data from Zurich revealed that 48 per cent of the $47 million (Dhs173 million) it has paid in life insurance and critical illness claims in the Middle East over the past three years is linked to heart-related diseases often caused by having a high BMI.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.8 million people die each year due to being overweight or obese.

“A high BMI increases the risk of many health problems including cardiovascular diseases, mainly heart disease, diabetes and some cancers,” said Dr. Jacob Chacko Kuttickal, specialist cardiologist, Prime Medical Center in Jumeirah, Dubai.

“However, overweight and obesity, as well as their related diseases, are largely preventable. In extreme circumstances, behavioral treatment and counseling, medications, electric stimulus devices and bariatric surgery are methods that can reduce obesity.

“But we recommend people avoid these complications in the first place by eating a healthier choice of foods and taking regular physical activity,” he added.

Nationalities with the highest average BMI in the UAE



Average BMI Overweight
1. Egypt 27.60 76.2%
2. Jordan 27.15 76.8%
3. Bahrain 26.97 65.4%
4. UAE 26.54 62.9%
5. South Africa 26.51 75.5%
6. Syria 26.50 72.0%
7. USA 26.46 66.5%
8. Ireland 26.39 69.7%
9. Germany 26.38 66.4%
10 UK 26.37 66.9%
* Minimum of 100 applicants per group


Nationalities with the lowest average BMI in the UAE



Average BMI Overweight
1. China 23.00 27.3%
2. Philippines 24.34 42.8%
3. Italy 25.01 46.6%
4. France 25.10 51.9%
5. Bangladesh 25.17 56.9%
* Minimum of 100 applicants per group




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