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Newsletter 02/2021

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Bupa Global Executive Wellbeing Index reveals UAE’s HNW individuals as most optimistic about post-COVID recovery


Bupa Global recently launched the Bupa Global Executive Wellbeing Index analysing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world’s high-net-worth community. The index, which surveyed almost 2,000 HNWIs and senior business executives based across Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia showed that despite concerns about the economy and mental health, global executives have been quick to see potential benefits.

Dean Pollard, General Manager of Bupa Global for the Africa, India and Middle East (BGAIM) said, “In the wake of the pandemic, this global study analysed how the world’s high-net-worth individuals and senior executives perceive personal wellbeing, the health of their family, work life balance, healthcare infrastructure and the economy. It has generated a significant shift in behaviour and will certainly reflect on the way business is conducted in the long term.”

Economic Outlook: Cautious Optimism

The report revealed that HNWIs in the UAE are amongst the most optimistic about post-COVID economic recovery, compared to their counterparts in Egypt, United Kingdom (UK), United States of America (USA) and France. Despite the economic slowdown, the study found that 88% of respondents in the UAE felt optimistic about local market recovery in comparison to an average of 50% in the other markets. However, there is greater uncertainty amongst UAE’s HNWIs about global prospects, with only 38% feeling optimistic that the world economy will bounce back – slightly higher than the average global sentiment which remains at 26%.

Mental Health: Attitude Shifts

The pandemic has brought about extensive physical and emotional fallout. In the UAE, mental health challenges are significantly higher compared to the rest of the world. More than a quarter (28%) complained of burnouts, compared to 17 per cent globally and a fifth (21%) experienced obsessive or compulsive thoughts, compared to just 10 per cent globally. Respondents also reported more cases of sadness and anxiety (35%), mental exhaustion (28%) and mood swings (27%) and almost a quarter (24%) reported feeling helpless or hopeless; significantly more than the global average (15%).  

There is an acknowledgment of the scale of the problem with people taking their mental health more seriously now than they did five years ago. Over a third (37%) spoke to a doctor or mental health professional, significantly more than the global average (26%), and a third (32%) accessed virtual medical services or used online support resources.

The experience appears to have led to a shift in mindset; even high achievers have re-evaluated their values and goals and many do not want to go back to the fast pace of life they had before. 64% are re-assessing their priorities and goals, 63% are spending more time focusing on their physical and mental wellbeing by changing their diet and exercise and 66% are rediscovering their passions and hobbies. Over half of the UAE respondents (53%) do not intend to return to their fast-paced lifestyle in a post-COVID world.

Work Life: Technology over Travel

The research confirmed that many businesses have used this time as a catalyst for change. 67% stated that the pandemic has made them reconsider how much time they spend away on work. Respondents in the UAE felt the mental health benefits of less travel and nights away, with almost half of the respondents (46%) enjoying the time away from the road. Most planned to reduce the time they spent travelling – cutting down the pre-pandemic average of 5.4 hours per week on work-related travel to 4.6 hours.

For many, this time meant rapidly evolving and finding new ways of working while maintaining social distancing. Most of those surveyed used technology to fill the gap - over a third (35%) would like their employer to conduct board meetings/ important meetings remotely, 33% plan to spend most of their time working from home and 24% want their companies to explore flexible working arrangements and to invest in technology for the long-term.

Healthcare and Insurance: New Frontiers

Three quarters of the respondents also shared that their attitude towards the UAE healthcare system improved during the COVID-19 pandemic, with increase in approvals for public and private medical systems alike. In tandem, the pandemic also increased scrutiny of medical insurance policies with three in ten (29%) now expecting coverage for private treatment for infectious illnesses and 28% for preventive care, such as health checks and vaccines. In line with the uptick in mental health issues, over a quarter (28%) think policies should include maintenance of good mental health as well.

Family Unity: Stronger Bonds

Over half (57%) of the respondents in the UAE admitted to battling mental health issues in isolation, due to fear of damaging personal and family reputations. In addition, 96% of those with a partner or children noticed symptoms of poor mental health in their families – compared to a global average of 68%.

However, awareness of mental health challenges has increased. 72% said the pandemic has allowed them to be more cognisant of signs of mental ill-health among their family members. Two thirds (66%) said their family has become closer during the pandemic, 69% of parents say their relationship with their child has improved during Covid-19 and 57% agree that their child’s mental health is better.

Alternative therapies: Retail and Wellness

A significant number of respondents turned to ‘retail therapy’ to alleviate mental health symptoms. Almost half (48%) took to shopping during the pandemic – a rise from 45%. Going forward, 41% plan to focus more on preventative health, 36% want to improve their diet, and 35% intend to exercise more regularly.

The Bupa Global Executive Wellbeing Index covered global trends in mental health and wellbeing amongst the HNW individuals. The full global as well as country-specific reports can be downloaded HERE.  


About Bupa Global

Bupa Global is the premium health insurance arm of Bupa. Established in 1971 and headquartered in the UK, it provides individuals, small businesses and corporate customers international coverage with products and services so they can access the healthcare they need anytime, anywhere in the world, whether at home or when studying, living, travelling or working abroad. In the Middle East, Bupa Global is the international administrator for global health plans insured by Oman Insurance (UAE), Solidarity (Bahrain), GIG (Jordan) and Bupa Arabia (KSA).


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