Global Health Issues 2019: United Arab Emirates


Fraser Clarke

UAE: Health Issues 2019

Health issues are always evolving, with each country and continent having its own unique set of challenges. In the latest in our exclusive new series, Global Health Issues, we’ll take a look at each country we work with, and examine what conditions are most prevalent there.

In the fifth article in this series we’re examining the state of health in the United Arab Emirates - a country that remains highly popular with expat medics, with healthcare proving to be a key way in which the country is attempting to drive its previously oil-centric economy forward.


It will come as little surprise to anyone who knows the region that Obesity is a massive issue in the Emirates. The UAE’s battle with the bulge is showing no signs of being won, as the country continues to expand both in numbers and size. 

Recent estimates have shown that almost 70% of the Emirates’ population are at an unhealthy weight, with this being blamed on rapid development and a lack of education about a healthy lifestyle. Sporting facilities are becoming more widespread across the country, whilst attitudes are changing as people begin to learn about the major issues that result from being obese - however this will take time.

For now obesity can be linked to most of the major health problems in the United Arab Emirates - as well as more generally throughout the Gulf.


Hand-in-hand with obesity is Diabetes. Across the Gulf region it is a major issue, with traditional diets and lifestyles leading to a population that eats plenty - whilst not exercising or restricting the amount of food that they consume. This has led to a diabetes epidemic throughout the Gulf, and it isn’t a bigger issue anywhere than in the Emirates.

Currently over 800,000 people in the UAE have diabetes, and this figure is expected to rise by around 80% throughout the Middle East & North Africa region - potentially affecting an estimated 68m people by 2035.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer is one of the most common types of the condition amongst men in the UAE, with rates in Abu Dhabi being especially high. Globally it is men between the ages of 60 and 70 who find themselves at the highest risk of the condition, however in the UAE it has been discovered in many men under the age of 40.

Around 11% of Cancers in the UAE are Colorectal, with the limited symptoms making it difficult to catch at an early stage. As a result health experts within the country have recommended that men, especially those at a higher risk of the condition due to family history, or factors such as smoking, regularly get screened to ensure it is caught before it can develop.


Cancer of the Lymphatic system appears to be on the rise in the UAE, with the country now being home to the world’s ninth highest rates of the condition. Unfortunately the reasons for this remain unknown, with various experts pointing to a range of factors from exposure to radiation, to family genetics.

Lymphoma develops when lymphocytes (the body’s white blood cells that help to fight infection) become out of control. They can divide in an abnormal way, or do not die when they should. This can lead to a range of symptoms in a patient, from rapid weight loss to fever like sweating.

Many people can be fully cured of the condition through a mixture of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and bone marrow transplants - all of which point to a positive future where the concerningly high statistics in the UAE should start to drop. 

Heart Disease

The world’s biggest killer, heart disease, is as big an issue in the UAE as you would expect - with almost 30% of deaths in the country coming as a result of it. Coronary heart disease rates are the 24th highest on the planet, and with youth obesity rates in the country rising this ranking looks destined to rise further in the near future.

With the average heart disease patient being diagnosed a full 20 years earlier than the US average (at 45, rather than 65 years of age) a long battle with heart problems looks to lie ahead.

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