Nearly half of the respondents (45 per cent) of a well being survey done in the UAE said that they are not fully covered by insurance and have to pay for their own medical expenses.
The 2017 Cigna 360 Well-Being Annual Global Survey's UAE findings released on Monday show that close to 50 per cent of the UAE respondents are concerned that they will be unable to pay for their family's or own medical expenses, above their mandatory employee coverage.
One in five respondents in the UAE tends to delay necessary health checks and 93 per cent choose to self-medicate when unwell. The survey was based on five indicators - physical, social, family, financial and work.
The survey also indicates gaps in workplace health insurance benefits, with 45 per cent respondents saying they pay out of their pocket for medical expenses, compared to 37 per cent who said their employer-provided insurance covered their medical expenses. Family health scored the top in the UAE standing at 65.8 while financial health was lowest at 53.1.
The UAE ranked fifth in the total 13 countries that were surveyed with a health score of 63.1 amongst an average of 62.3. Almost 93 per cent of those surveyed preferred self-remedies to overcome symptoms of illness as compared to only 20 per cent who preferred to visit experts such as doctors and dentists.
Ali Lutfi, head of the licensing section for health insurance providers at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said: "We are at crossroads of Dubai's healthcare landscape, where each of us - regulators, healthcare institutions and insurers - have an important opportunity to bring better health to the population."
"Our learning from the survey indicates many people are unprepared for their future healthcare costs," said Jason Sadler, president of Cigna International Markets.
With the rising incidence of chronic illness in Dubai, where 30 per cent of deaths are caused by heart disease, there is clearly a need for a greater focus on wellness. Cigna also includes a 'Healthy Living Reward' of 10 per cent discount on annual premiums upon meeting certain criteria to inspiring customers to lead healthier lifestyles such as detailing of their BMI and nicotine preferences among others.
Emirati Essa Al Ansari, 25, who lost 70 kilos after fainting in a mall due to too a sugar 'overdose' in 2012 said that the choice for him was either to lose weight or die. He was diagnosed as a pre-diabetic.
With 67,800 followers on Instagram alone on FitnessWithEssa, Essa says he is using technology to raise awareness on good health. "I used to eat fast food two to three times a week and that was unhealthy," he said. However, support from friends and family helped him maintain a healthy lifestyle. Essa has already given motivational talks to children from 52 schools after latest statistics showed that 33 per cent of children in the UAE are either overweight or obese. Essa is also the face of the upcoming Dubai Fitness Challenge that starts on October 20.
The research in December 2016 used a 20-minute online format and 1,019 were surveyed in UAE.