Prevalence of depression and suicidal behaviors among male migrant workers in United Arab Emirates

J Immigr Minor Health. 2011 Dec;13(6):1027-32. doi: 10.1007/s10903-011-9470-9.


Migrant workers comprise 80% of the population of the United Arab Emirates, but there is little research on their mental health. To determine the prevalence and correlates of depression among workers living in labor camps, we conducted a cross-sectional survey in labor camps in Al Ain city. The Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-42) was used to assess depression and suicidal ideation among the study participants. Off the 319 contacted workers agreed to participate, however 239 fully completed the DASS-42. The prevalence of a score >=10 ("depression") was 25.1% (60/239). Depression was correlated with physical illness (97/301), (adjusted odds ratio-AOR = 2.9; 95% CI 2.26-5.18), working in construction industry (prevalence 124/304), AOR = 2.2; 95%CI 1.56-3.83), earning less than 1,000 UAE Dirham per month (prevalence 203/314), (AOR = 1.8; 95%CI 1.33-3.16), and working more than 8 h a day (prevalence 213/315), (AOR = 2.7; 95%CI 1.19-6.27). 20/261 (6.3%) of the study participants reported thoughts of suicide and 8/265 (2.5%) had attempted suicide. People with suicidal ideation were more likely to have a physical illness (AOR = 8.1, 95%CI 2.49-26.67), earn less than 1,000 UAE Dirham per month (AOR = 5.98, 95%CI 1.26-28.45), and work for more than 8 h a day (AOR = 8.35, 95%CI 1.03-67.23). The study identified self reported indicators of a substantial burden of depression, and thoughts of self-harm among laborers surveyed. Policy level intervention and implementation, is needed to improve working conditions, including minimum wages and regulation of working hours is recommended.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology*
  • United Arab Emirates / epidemiology
  • Young Adult