Survey reveals UAE is a 'zombie nation' of smartphone users

YouGov poll shows average use of 6.5 hours a day, while 21 per cent of Emiratis admitted to using their phone at the wheel

Almost half of respondents to a YouGov survey said they would struggle to get by without their phones for just two hours. The National
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The average UAE resident spends six hours per day glued to their smartphones, according to a nationwide YouGov/Omnibus survey.

More than a thousand people responded to a poll asking questions about their smartphone habits, with 87 per cent saying they would struggle to live without their phone for just 24 hours.

Almost half of respondents said they would struggle to get by being without their phones for just two hours.

Women spend an hour more every day than men attached to their devices, with 43 per cent of respondents claiming to spend more time texting or messaging via social media than holding a physical conversation with someone.

“Smartphones have become intertwined with our daily routine and it seems our reliance on them is ever increasing,” said Kerry Mclaren, head of consumer polling at Omnibus, which conducted the survey.

“One of the most worrying points from this piece is the percentage of people who openly admit to spending more time messaging or talking through social media than actually conversing with people.

“The fact that we are spending a quarter of our day glued to our mobile screen is a cause for concern as we are missing so much of what is actually going on around us.”


Doctors have raised concerns over adults spending more time on smart mobile devices than interacting with young children, a trend that could hinder development of language and social skills in toddlers.

The recent YouGov survey taken in early November reveals 9 in 10 respondents in the UAE own a smartphone, with 70 per cent of those who do not own one planning to buy one.

The addictive nature of smartphones is becoming more common, with the instant gratification of viewing a recent post on social media linked to the release of feel-good brain chemicals.

On average, people claimed to spend 6.5 hours on their smartphone every day, with women spending an average of seven hours, compared with six hours among men.


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Unsurprisingly, the usage among younger age groups also exceeds the overall daily average, with those aged between 18-29 years spending an average of 7 hours a day stuck to their phones.

In terms of frequency, 76 per cent of respondents admitted to looking at their phone while in bed before sleeping, while 72 per cent said they reached for their device first thing in the morning.

It is a common gripe of cinema-goers to be interrupted by that annoying ring tone or screen flash during a blockbuster movie. The survey results back that up with 20 per cent saying they use their phones during a film showing.

Of those, 31 per cent are Emiratis and 21 per cent Arab expatriates living in the UAE.

Although illegal and subject to a hefty fine and black points if discovered, mobile use while driving is also relatively common – with 21 per cent of Emiratis admitting to using their phone while at the wheel.

Men are more likely to be distracted on the road than women, with 14 per cent likely to check their phones while driving compared to just 8 per cent of women.

Facebook is the most popular social media app used on smartphones for the majority, followed by YouTube (67 per cent) and Instagram (54 per cent).

While comparatively, Facebook and YouTube emerge as more popular among males, Instagram and Snapchat are the clear winners among women.

In the UK, YouGov found similar results with data revealing 15 per cent of drivers asked said they used their phone while driving.

Similar findings to the UAE showed the youngest in the UK are more likely to use their phones in social situation.

Among 18-24 year olds 78 per cent will check their phones while dining out, 81 per cent will do so at work and 92 per cent will do so while in bed.

In America, most people told YouGov they were willing to put the phone down for work meetings, hanging out with friends and while on a date.

More than half (53 per cent) said they “never” check their phone during a work meeting, while 39 per cent said they checked their phone when spending time with friends.

“Apart from affecting our productivity, this unhealthy dependency can have a serious impact on our mental health and relationships,” said Ms Mclaren.

“There is a need to create more awareness around how distracted we really are and look at ways to tackle the problem, creating a balance.

“People need to recognise the habits they may have developed and make conscious efforts to balance their day between technology and the life around them.”