UAE needs over 1,700 psychiatrists as demand for mental health services grows

The Emirates has 0.3 psychiatrists for a 100,000 population and 14,000 psychiatric beds for a similar number of people


Waheed Abbas

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Photo used for illustrative purpose
Photo used for illustrative purpose

Published: Mon 27 May 2024, 3:29 PM

Last updated: Wed 29 May 2024, 5:16 PM

The UAE needs 1,759 psychiatrists and 3,381 additional psychiatric beds to meet the growing demand for mental health services as the population in the country is expected to reach nearly 11 million by 2030, according to a new study released on Monday.

The young demographic profile of the UAE, coupled with societal changes and advancements, increases the risk of mental health conditions, especially among individuals aged 20-39. The UAE will also see an increase in people aged over 60, who often require mental healthcare, according to Knight Frank’s Mental Health Report for the Middle East and Africa region.

The UAE has 0.3 psychiatrists for a 100,000 population and 14 psychiatric beds for a similar number of people.

The Knight Frank study mainly covered the two main countries of the Middle East — Saudi Arabia and UAE.

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Despite the demand for mental health services, Knight Frank added that there is a lack of inpatient facilities to meet the needs arising from outpatient facilities.

“In the UAE, there is only one dedicated mental health facility serving the entire population, while in Saudi Arabia, there are limited psychiatric clinics and inpatient facilities, primarily catering to Saudi nationals,” it said.

Shehzad Jamal, partner, strategy and consultancy for MEA at Knight Frank said the UAE introduced mental health services in 1980, and today, mental health is a key performance indicator in the National Agenda.

“Looking ahead, we need to make mental health services more accessible and affordable, streamline regulatory processes to ensure we have enough talent and resources, and invest in strong infrastructure. This includes investing in digital technology for mental health, which has become more popular since Covid-19. It's also crucial to fight the stigma around mental health so people can seek the help they need without fear or hesitation,” added Jamal.

“Incidence rates of conditions such as anxiety and depression are higher in KSA and on par in the UAE when compared to the UK. However, in terms of infrastructure, KSA and UAE have a psychiatry bed density of 14.0 and 18.4 beds per 100,000 population, respectively, compared to 36.9 beds per 100,000 population in the UK. This highlights the disparity in the availability of mental health services and facilities in the region,” said Dr Gireesh Kumar, associate partner for strategy and consultancy for healthcare for MEA at Knight Frank.

To address the rising burden of mental health conditions, he added that additional investment is required in the sector for both preventive and curative care.


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