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Video: You can now “see” your stress using this new tool

Global health services company Cigna Insurance Middle East today launched its Stress Care initiative in the UAE, dedicated to raising awareness about the long-term impact of stress

The first-ever visual portraits of stress will depict impact on body and mind In the UAE, close to 22% of residents face unmanageable levels of stress, according to the Cigna 360⁰ Well-Being Survey 2019 In the UAE, the cost for selected stress-related illness on the health system is estimated at $698 million per annum


Global health services company Cigna Insurance Middle East today launched its Stress Care initiative in the UAE, dedicated to raising awareness about the long-term impact of stress – a known contributor to chronic diseases – and reducing its prevalence among residents. 

In line with the UAE’s National Strategy for Wellbeing 2031, the campaign seeks to empower people to take control of their overall health and wellness. 

For the first time ever, the Stress Care platform helps people visualize the impact of stress on their body and mind using Cigna’s Stress Portraits, thereby encouraging them to take proactive steps to improve their wellness through creating a personal Stress Care P.L.A.N. – a simple four-step actionable plan to manage stress. 

In the UAE, close to 22% of residents face unmanageable levels of stress, according to the Cigna 360⁰ Well-Being Survey 2019. Stress has been proven to significantly contribute to High Blood Pressure and other chronic diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that chronic diseases will account for almost three-quarters of all deaths by 2020. In the UAE, the cost for selected stress-related illness on the health system is estimated at $698 million per annum, according to a study conducted by Asia Care Group*.

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While the UAE has seen improvement in overall well-being, Cigna’s annual 360⁰ Well-Being Survey highlights that stress among UAE employees is high primarily due to their concerns about finances, job security, and overwork. Many respondents admit to working longer hours, with 91% reporting stress at work and 96% perceiving a negative impact of colleagues’ stress on the workplace environment. 

In addition, only 43% of those surveyed confirm having a formal wellness program at the workplace, with more than half stating that these programs focus solely on physical wellness and fail to give mental well-being the attention it deserves. A staggering 77% report working in an ‘always on’ culture where they feel they cannot switch off from work even during the evenings or on weekends, which significantly impacts their stress levels.

“Stress is a major contributor to absenteeism and lack of productivity in the workplace, and it is costing businesses worldwide more than US$1.87 billion annually,” said Jerome Droesch, CEO of Cigna MENA. “While a little stress is normal in our busy lives today, the findings of our survey underscore that chronic stress is a prevailing hazard to health and wellness. Employees need to be alerted to the triggers of stress and its related mental and physical symptoms. These tend not to be openly discussed or treated seriously in organizations due to various factors, such as cultural norms or lack of awareness about the hidden cost. We see stress not as something to suffer in silence, but something everyone can take control of.”

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How it works 
To motivate residents to ‘See Stress Differently’, Cigna has created tools and processes to help people recognize the impact of chronic stress and alert them to the serious effects of leaving the condition unmanaged. 

Renowned digital artist Sean Sullivan has applied his data visualization expertise to help transform live stress readings from the human body into stunning motion graphic artwork to produce the Cigna Stress Portraits. The stress visualization experience is a real-time rendering of the physical readings of a person’s brainwaves, heart rate, and skin response. While this innovative solution provides insights into how stress is affecting people physically at that very moment, it is not a medical or diagnostic tool. 

Warmer colors, such as red and orange, suggest a rather high level of stress, while cooler colors, such as blue, indicate a lower level. Meanwhile, green and purple represent moderate stress. The intensity of stress is also captured in the speed at which the animation moves: A high-stress visualization moves more rapidly, whereas calmer movements are typical for a low-stress visualization.

After completing the stress visualization assessment, people can create a simple, personal, and actionable plan that supports regular stress care. The Stress P.L.A.N., created by Dr Stuart L. Lustig, lead medical director at Cigna, outlines a four-step approach to managing stress: 

-identifying a Period of time to unwind

-a Location that is stress-reducing

-an Activity to enjoy

-a Name of a person to talk to

Those interested in developing their Stress Portrait can visit www.cigna-me.com.  

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