With year-round sunshine, pristine beaches, dazzling shopping malls, a large variety of restaurants, tall buildings teeming with success stories and, above all, a tax-free income, the life of expatriates in the UAE is the envy of many. Yet, like any other modern metropolis where millions scramble to eke out a living for themselves and live their dreams at the same time, living here can be a lonely experience. Some reasons are obvious: being away from friends and family, social anxiety, failing to find the life one was hoping for when one decided to move to this country, as well as having to live in a transient society where making long-lasting relations can be challenging.
Although such emotional crisis is a worldwide phenomenon, it should not be underestimated, as a story in our Arts&Lifestyle section explained yesterday, citing the findings of new research by academics from Brigham Young University in the United States. Looking at 148 studies of how loneliness affects life expectancy, the researchers found that social isolation can be as dangerous as smoking about 15 cigarettes a day. About 30 per cent of people suffering from obesity are likely to die before they reach the age of 70. By contrast, "a greater social connection" reduces a person's risk of early death by 50 per cent. What's more concerning is that the level of the risk is increasing in nations such as the UAE.
There is clearly a need for the health system to not just pay greater attention to the psychological well-being of individuals, but treat mental-health issues in the same way as physical illnesses are treated. For this to happen, we need to break the taboo surrounding them, talk about them more and improve the infrastructure for those who need support.