Work is a source of much worry, with four in five (81 per cent) respondents to The National's YouGov survey finding their jobs somewhat or extremely stressful. Those living in Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates felt the stress more than others. Three in 10 (29pc and 30pc, respectively) said their jobs were extremely stressful, against one in five (21pc) for those in Dubai and Sharjah.
Half the expatriates (51pc) considered life in the UAE to be more stressful than at home, although westerners (42pc) were more likely to feel the stress level was about the same. Men (55pc) were more likely than women (44pc) to feel greater stress. Both westerners and Arab expatriates were familiar with stress in the workplace before coming to the UAE, with more than half of each (51pc and 53pc, respectively) saying their jobs in their home countries had been very or somewhat stressful. Asians were more likely to have taken it easy at home, with two in five (39pc) saying their job had been stressful.
Part of the stress can be traced to fears for future employment. Three in five said they were somewhat or extremely worried that they might lose their jobs. Sheman Addas, who has worked as a human resources trainer in the capital for 15 years, said the feeling of insecurity had created a stressed-out expatriate workforce. While expatriate employment packages used to offer schooling for children, long holidays and accommodation, this is often no longer the case. Contracts that once lasted for three years were being reduced, sometimes to as little as a year, creating a greater sense of vulnerability, she said.
"Many people are doing the job of two people with downsizing," she said. "Here, it's very much about hours not output, so people are clocking in and out, there is no flexitime like there would be in other countries and this leads to a very rigid system to work within." Too much responsibility, conflict with colleagues or management, and a lack of support from superiors were among the factors she cited that increase stress levels in the workplace.
The increasing cost of living in Abu Dhabi had forced many to live in Dubai, adding the stress of a long commute, Ms Addas said. The survey echoed that sentiment, with 64 per cent of commuters saying they found life in the UAE more stressful than at home, against 53 per cent of non-commuters. Emiratis were largely free of such concerns - 70 per cent were either not very worried or not worried at all about losing their job, and a fifth (21pc) said their job was not stressful at all. The latter view was shared by just one per cent of Arab expatriates and Asians, and no westerners.
* Additional reporting by Melanie Swan