x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 February 2018

Ramadan is a time to be spent with family

The holy month is all about spending quality time at home. That is the fundamental finding of a survey which looked at health, lifestyle, shopping and eating habits of residents in the Mena region during Ramadan.

ABU DHABI // The holy month is all about spending quality time at home.

That is the fundamental finding of a wide-ranging survey recently undertaken by researchers at YouGov, who looked at health, lifestyle, shopping and eating habits of residents in the Mena region during Ramadan.

In the survey, a majority in the region said they preferred to remain in their country of residence for the holy month. Most said they spent more money than usual, while their day-to-day lives remain unchanged.

More than half of the survey’s respondent’s said their lifestyle changed only slightly, with 15 per cent claiming it did not change at all. A third, however, said their lives changed completely during Ramadan.

Just over three quarters of those who said they would be fasting said they prayed more.

Home was the central focus, said YouGov’s head of consumer research, Wadii Eljourani, with 69 per cent of respondents choosing to stay in their country of residence.

“The study validates the traditions that occur during Ramadan where we are seeing an increase in spiritual and religious activity with 78 per cent of fasting residents praying more, and 66 per cent spending more time with their family,” he said.

When it comes to health and exercise, 65 per cent of those fasting said they did not follow a regular exercise regime.

Of the 35 per cent of respondents who said they exercised regularly, nearly half exercise less during Ramadan, while 15 per cent said they stopped exercising altogether.

Interestingly, 15 per cent claimed they exercised more during Ramadan, citing additional free time, a desire to lose weight, and be healthier as reasons.

The average exercise time reduces from 43 minutes outside Ramadan to 29 minutes during Ramadan.

In terms of adverse health effects during the holy month, 29 per cent said they experienced headaches, while 16 per cent said they suffered from heartburn, followed by 13 per cent who said they had to deal with dehydration.

Nearly half of the respondents, 46 per cent, said their work productivity was not affected while fasting.

“There is a myth during Ramadan that while fasting, people are less productive and lose their temper quicker, however the research highlights the majority of fasting residents claim their productivity is not affected at work and some are even more productive than normal,” said Mr Eljourani.

Sixty two per cent said they found fasting easy, with fruit and yogurt being the most popular foods for suhoor. Water and juice were quoted as the most popular drinks.

The most popular food and drink to break their fast with was dates (60 per cent) and water (18 per cent).

Regarding consumer behaviour, 57 per cent of all respondents said they saved money throughout the year for Ramadan and Eid. A majority said they spent more money, with nearly a quarter claiming to “spend a lot more”.

Top purchases were food and groceries, followed by clothing.

Just over half said they shop after iftar, with 33 per cent saying they went shopping late at night. On average, respondents said they expected to visit malls twice a week during Ramadan.

Shariqa Rehman, born and raised in Delhi and living in the UAE since 2002, said her overall lifestyle changed significantly.

“First of all, our eating habits change. We give up our bad habits, smoking and munching bad foods,” she said. “Of course, our times become very punctual.”

She said she shopped more during Ramadan, spending more money on food and gifts, and even exercised more because of an increase in free time with adjusted working hours.

“We have more time during Ramadan, so we have more time for things like walking and cycling,” she said.

“Our concentration increases during fasting, we are involved in spiritual activities and praying,” she said. “It’s good for brain function and we think more positively during Ramadan.”

The study was conducted online by YouGov among 3,288 Mena residents – 2,789 of who msaid they were fasting – between May 28 and June 8, with 719 respondents in the UAE.

esamoglou@thenational.ae