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An increasingly unhealthy lifestyle has seen Gulf nations fall in Bloomberg’s 2019 healthiest country index, with Spain becoming the surprise leader.
The study, which examines a range of factors from life expectancy to obesity and exercise rates, saw Bahrain named as the only Gulf location where the nations’ health improved - with The UAE (-3), Kuwait (-22) and Saudi Arabia (-6) all recording sharp falls.
At the other end of the table six European nations were joined by Japan (4th), Australia (7th), Singapore (8th) and Israel (10th).
Elsewhere Canada ranked 16th - 19 positions above the United States - whilst Malta’s high quality healthcare, and Mediterranean diet saw it ranked 27th. In the Far East China continued to improve, rising three places to 51st - with healthier lifestyles, and a greater awareness of lifestyle related health issues starting to have an impact.
Despite positivity in the Far East however, the Gulf’s continual battle with unhealthy lifestyles remains a massive concern to those in the region, which is home to some of the world’s highest rates of diabetes and obesity.
Given the issues caused by lifestyle related health, the region’s lack of preventative care was also heavily criticised.
Research appears to be the main way in which the Emirates is responding to these challenges, with a long-term study focusing on the causes of heart disease and diabetes in more than 20,000 Emiratis currently being worked on by one of the country’s leading Universities - with factors beyond lifestyle such as environment and genetics being a key focus.
Dr Raghib Ali, of the New York University Abu Dhabi, explained why he believes a focus now needs to be placed on an individual to take responsibility for their health.
He told ‘The National’: “Although there’s excellent healthcare cover and state of the art facilities in terms of screening programmes for things like diabetes and heart disease, there needs to be more emphasis on that and also on programmes around smoking and improving physical activity.”
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