I’m declaring my ignorance, bias, status and lack of experience upfront. I’m not a doctor. My job is to sell insurance, I am an expat and I have only been in the UAE for two years. There. Now that’s out of the way.
The papers have recently been full of interesting facts and figures about our health here in the UAE and how we compare to the world at large. For example, more than 17 million people will die this year from heart disease – it is the world’s biggest killer, dwarfing AIDS by some 13 million. Six million will die of lung cancer and ten per cent of these will be non-smokers, killed due to an association with smokers.

The diseases and illnesses afflicting the UAE are those associated with affluence. In fact, if you ask me, affluence is becoming the biggest killer of all time. The diseases include, but aren’t restricted to:

Obesity: The UAE is now fifth in the world for obesity. Apparently, 70 per cent of Emirati men are overweight and the number for women is similar as well.

Diabetes: Some 20 per cent of residents in the UAE are diabetic (although up to 50 per cent of these do not know it) and a similar number are pre-diabetic. Overweight and obese people are at a higher risk of contracting diabetes, and expats in the UAE contract diabetes, on average, 15 years earlier than the global average.

Hypertension: Forty per cent of the UAE’s adult population is suffering hypertension, which is a precursor to heart attacks and strokes. Stress and anxiety are linked to hypertension and heart disease. Surveys show that more than 40 per cent of people in the UAE feel excessive pressure from their jobs and 56 per cent feel insecure about their finances. And while stress affects us all, the fact is that it is felt more at the bottom of the social hierarchy than at the top – people who do not feel in control suffer more stress and anxiety, and are three times more likely to die from heart diseases than people who feel in control.

Cancer: Strokes, heart disease and cancer are the most common reasons why people claim on their critical illness policies – more than 90 per cent of all claims are for one of these three reasons.

It would be easy to make the leap from the ‘affluence epidemic’ to the need to buy critical illness insurance. This insurance will pay out on the diagnosis of more than 30 illnesses, although you really only need worry about the top three, but there is a catch: You have to buy it before you are diagnosed. Insurance companies won’t take the risk if there is no risk. The average age of claimants is under 50 – these are not diseases and illnesses that occur only to the very old.

However, this is not a sales pitch – it’s far from it. I’m not going on about the impact of a critical illness on your life, your ability to earn a living or about its possible effect on your family and its lifestyle.

No, what I want to say is that control over your health is the basis of enjoying your life and your affluent lifestyle. It is the front line of life insurance. You can take control of your life by adjusting your habits – the routines we all use to lead our lives. We have good and bad habits – we have to spend time reviewing them and changing the ones that are leading us in the wrong direction, so we can take control of our health, enjoy our wealth and lead a long and happy life.

It’s as easy to identify the habits that need to change, as it is difficult to make the adjustments necessary to bring about that change. Research has shown that a smoker who wants to give up smoking has a one in 20 chance of succeeding if they go at it alone, but a one in three chance if they have someone to help. Just as most people need help to work out what insurance they need, they also need help to change their habits.

Habits are the key to health, both physical and financial. Change your habits and change your future. Health, wealth and happiness go hand-in-hand, but none can exist on its own.


Peter Ellen is operations director at Nexus Insurance Brokers www.nexusadvice.com. He has worked in the sales industry for 28 years in senior management positions and as a consultant. To contact Peter for advice with any insurance and investment advice please email him at peter.ellen@nexusadvice.com.

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