UAE in Top 3 in Global Health and Well-being Index Despite Decreased Job Security and High Stress Among Women, Finds Cigna's Latest 360° Well-Being Study

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DUBAI, UAE – September 13, 2021

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) emerged among the top three most positive markets out of the 21 surveyed by global health services company Cigna Corporation (NYSE:CI) as part of its annual flagship Cigna 360° Well-Being Survey.

The UAE’s overall well-being scores have increased compared to early 2020 in the latest study in March-April 2021 as the country’s vaccination program successfully nears completion. Ranking above the global average in third place, after Saudi Arabia, with an overall well-being score of 66.2 points, the UAE shows high resilience across five key indices – physical, family, social, financial, and work.

“After a tough year, it is heartening to see overall improved scores across parameters for the UAE, which undoubtedly reflects the incredible efforts of the country’s government in managing the pandemic,” said Jerome Droesch, CEO, Cigna MEA and SEA. “Cigna has continually invested in understanding the health and well-being of people in the UAE. In 2020, we enhanced the annual 360° Well-Being Survey to run in frequent waves to monitor the evolving trends, followed by an intensive survey in March-April 2021, which has given us a comprehensive overview of the impact of COVID-19 on people and their habits, behaviors and expectations. The survey shows a positive correlation between vaccination rates and people’s well-being across markets, where the UAE ranks highest globally.

“Yet, there is much work to be done. People have consistently suffered from overwork, which has led a half of the UAE’s working population to consider leaving their jobs. There is a wide gap in the workplace wellness of the country’s citizens and residents, who are among the most stressed in the world. It is time that employers step up and offer more care and support to their staff. We need to work as a community to raise awareness and drive positive change on this front.”

The seventh annual global study was conducted anonymously online, interviewing 18,043 respondents aged 18 and above worldwide and 2,508 in the Middle East. In its most comprehensive survey to date, Cigna dived deep into people’s perceptions of health and well-being to identify their key concerns across various areas.

Six top regional trends have emerged from the survey:

- The UAE’s health and well-being outlook is stronger than in the global markets. This is a likely outcome of the country’s successful efforts to manage the pandemic and an aggressive inoculation program. As a direct reflection of this trend, the fear of contracting the coronavirus has declined sharply among people – from 37% in December 2020 to 22% in March-April 2021. This trend of almost-record scores in the 360° Well-Being Index is witnessed across those markets where there is high availability and uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Interestingly, the study shows higher well-being scores among participants with children, indicating that a close-knit family plays an integral role in providing emotional support during tough times.

- Employee wellness shows major gaps, especially for the sandwich generation. A whopping 50% of UAE respondents said that they have intentions to change their job in the next 12 months compared to a global average of 31%. The trend is most prevalent among those in the younger generation aged 18 – 34 years (55%). However, the sandwich generation, aged 35 – 59 years, reveal a higher job insecurity on the global scale, with 45% intending to change jobs in the UAE vs the global average of 25% in the same age group globally. This age group is also financially stressed with their ranking on the financial well-being index dropping to lower than pre-pandemic levels - from 57.1 in January 2020 to 55.1 in March-April 2021.

The study highlights heavy workload among UAE employees compared to 2020. However, the largest gap lies in mental health support, where 34% claim to have a lack of support and 39% feel they need access to resilience training for mental health. This gap in mental health support is significantly higher among women (42%). Meanwhile, 33% felt uncared-for or witnessed a lack of understanding by their employers. Stress among UAE workforce, although lower than pre-pandemic period, ranks among the highest in the world at 88%.

Another outcome of the pandemic is a growing concern among employees about their health insurance, where 58% would appreciate enhanced cover - while only 33% are receiving it.

- Women are more stressed. Uncertainty of the future, personal and family finances, and lack of job opportunities have women feeling far more stressed than men – a phenomenon witnessed globally. 89% of women in the UAE are stressed as compared to 85% globally. Their stress has also had a higher negative impact on them over men, leading them to feel depressed, emotionally vulnerable, lose concentration and sleep.

Women have suffered more on all counts, ranking lower than men across well-being parameters. They had an overall well-being score of 64.4 points compared to 67.2 among men. The highest impact areas for women were sleep, weight issues, and financial insecurity.

Despite their stress levels, however, women are much more unlikely than men to see a mental health professional such as a therapist or counsellor.

- Working from home (WFH) is preferred, but employees are overworked. Not surprisingly, the pandemic has significantly increased the acceptance of WFH, with 41% of office-based respondents preferring to work from home full-time. Of these, 25% opting to WFH full-time with access to an office when needed, while 32% want to return to the office full-time. Furthermore, women were seen to prefer WFH more than men – 49% vs 37%. Although the respondents appreciate the flexibility, safety and cost savings that WFH offers, they feel that it often leads to overworking. Distractions at home, longer working hours, and weaker collaboration are seen as the biggest disadvantages of WFH.

The study also highlights a decline in physical health, which returned to pre-pandemic levels as people have started returning to offices. The 2021 study reaffirms insights from the previous studies that physical health was prioritized during COVID-19.

A key outcome of WFH is overwork, with half (52%) of the office-based workers noting that they worked longer hours when WFH. Top reasons cited include excessive workload (31%) and high employer expectations (21%). People have also complained about virtual meeting fatigue (21%).

- Residents are more attuned to whole health. The mindset around health has shifted with the evolution of the pandemic, with people opening up to a wider view of health inclusive of mental, physical and overall well-being across work, social and family. The priority areas are family health (81%), mental health and emotional wellbeing (78%), physical health (77%) and financial health (77%). A majority (72%) of the respondents also place high importance on having access to care, such as medical advice or treatment, home environment and living conditions (72%) as they work more from home, and work-life balance (73%).

Furthermore, people are looking for enhanced health insurance packages that offer peace of mind. These have the potential to move from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ that may well influence career decisions.

- Growing acceptance of telehealth in the UAE. A direct offshoot of the pandemic, telehealth has gained momentum in the UAE and is being considered by 60% of the service users for general health advice. Service users would also use it for general health checkups (43%), prescription refills (51%), and for therapy and counselling (62%). These numbers show a steady growth in the acceptance of virtual health over the past year, however, an overall preference for traditional engagement prevails, as many residents would rather have face time with their regular doctor or don’t think they would receive an accurate diagnosis virtually. Nevertheless, people are recognizing the benefits of telehealth, especially access to care, monitoring treatments like physical therapy online and not having to take time off work to see a doctor.

To read the full report on 2021 Cigna 360° Well-Being Survey Findings, please visit https://cutt.ly/fEh6N9o

About Cigna Middle East & Africa Cigna Corporation is a global health service company dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being, and peace of mind. With a heritage of over 200 years, Cigna is committed to its promise of being together all the way in providing healthcare, clinical management and wellness programs to employers, individuals, and governments around the world. Operating for more than 17 years in the MENA region, Cigna serves the GCC markets and Lebanon through its locally regulated entities. The company delivers both health and wellness services to individuals, employers and government entities in the region. Cigna has been operating in the African continent for 60 years servicing over 250,000 members. Cigna is servicing corporates through a partnership between Hollard and Cigna. Together, we provide health insurance for local companies looking to insure key resources and multinationals looking to harmonize their health insurance across Africa. Cigna maintains a global sales capability in 30 countries and jurisdictions, employing over 74,000 people that service more than 165 million customer relationships and more than 1 billion customer touchpoints. To learn more about Cigna Insurance Middle East, visit www.cigna-me.com.

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