DUBAI // Identifying the factors unique to the UAE that contribute towards depression is the focus of a new study.
The Arabia Felix survey, launched last week by researchers at Zayed University, aims to highlight the bugbears of a multicultural society such as ours.
The study comprises questions refined over the course of a year by focus groups at the university.
Justin Thomas, an assistant professor of psychology at ZU, who is coordinating the study, said a stress analysis test developed in the United States would not give accurate results here.
"It wasn't really appropriate to the UAE," he said. "Every nation has its own unique daily life stresses, what we wanted to do here was to capture ones from the UAE."
The survey asks people to rate how severely they feel stress by circumstances such as "having to deal with people who don't speak Arabic". Dr Thomas, a regular columnist for The National, believes a certain amount of stress arises from interacting with people from different cultures.
"It's multicultural here but it's not a melting pot like the UK or US," he said. "People keep their own identities and languages, and when people have to interact that can occasionally cause some stress."
The research is being funded by a grant of about Dh150,000 from the Emirates Foundation, and is being carried out by Dr Thomas and two Emirati students from the psychology department.
It follows research published earlier this year which found that 13.5 per cent of Qataris suffer from depression. Although this is comparable with the 13.2 per cent suffering in the UK, it is unusual because of the large amount of sunshine in the region.
In a survey of ZU students, published in 2010, Dr Thomas found that 20 per cent suffered from depression. He believes a similar figure could arise from the broader population survey in the Arabia Felix research.
The link to the survey has been shared on Facebook and Twitter and so far there have been about 300 respondents, mostly from the UAE but also from Bahrain and Oman.
The questionnaire will be online until May, but Dr Thomas said he would complete a preliminary analysis once there have been more than a thousand responses.
It is hoped there will be enough respondents to reveal statistically significant trends among different social groups. "We'll be able to pick out expatriates from the indigenous population and look at the differences in what stresses them out."
Participate in the survey by visiting www.arabiafelix.ae