Many expats underestimate how much the stress of relocating overseas and the impact of culture shock will have on their mental and physical health, says a new study.
But once they have settled in abroad, two thirds of expats report they feel healthier than they were when living in Britain.
The research, by health insurer Axa PPP International, found most expats move to another country seeking adventure but the dream of a new life is often complicated by problems finding housing, over education for children or difficulties finding work.
Dr Mark Winwood, the company’s director of psychological services, argues the stress of moving overseas can be measured against moving home in the UK
Better climate makes expats feel good
“Many find moving house is more stressful than getting divorced which may serve as an indicator of the potentially high level of stress involved in overseas relocation,” he said.
“In addition to moving house, international movers must consider the differences in language and culture, the reality of knowing few people in the area and the lives of their spouse and children post-move. There is a huge amount to consider and, unsurprisingly, many expats fall victim to culture shock.”
Winwood explains expats often feel healthier because they live in countries with better climates than the UK which allow them to live more of an outdoor lifestyle which contributes to their well-being.
However, he warns expats to keep their feet on the ground and plan their move rather than become carried away in the excitement of living somewhere new.
Planning a move overseas
“A lot of people get caught up in the adventure of living overseas and don’t consider the practicalities of living somewhere new. It’s good to be excited about your new life but also important to think about how that will play out.
“Make sure you do your research and carefully consider where you want to live – not just the country but the location too.
“Think about how connected you are to main transport, how close are local amenities and schools, how will you access healthcare and are their social or expat groups you can join to meet new people? You nor your family don’t want to feel isolated as this may make have a toll on your health and wellbeing.”