One of the least reported issues in the Middle East is the dramatic increase in obesity and eating disorders. Throughout Kuwait, Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and throughout the United Arab Emirates, cases of obesity are on the rise.
It is estimated by the International Diabetes Foundation that over thirty-seven million people in this area have Type 2 diabetes and only about half of those are diagnosed. While this is high, the same report indicates that with the lack of education and mental health support for eating disorders, these numbers could easily double over the next two decades.
Lifestyle and Food Choices
Two of the factors driving this rise in obesity are lifestyle and food choices. The lifestyle tends to be very sedentary without a lot of physical activity. This is particularly true for the upper to middle class families in the area, which is where the obesity issue is most dramatic.
Tied to this are the cultural issues around food. Food is seen as a way to celebrate. This includes large meals, multiple food items to choose from and an emphasis on socialising around food. Additionally, in most of these areas, going out to eat at luxurious restaurants is not just an occasional event, it is common practice.
To compound matters the rich, calorie-dense food is seen as such a part of daily life, socialising and celebrating, so it becomes a comfort to people. When this is intertwined with the stigma of working with mental health professionals for issues such as depression, anxiety or addictions, it may become the way that individuals cope with stress in their lives.
In addition to food addiction, or the need for food to calm or soothe individuals, there is also an increasing rate of eating disorders from bulimia and anorexia to binge eating disorders. Give the current lack of focus on changing these issues; these numbers are also anticipated to rise dramatically over the next few years.