When it comes to what expats name as their priorities when heading overseas, either to work or retire, the cost of living in their chosen country of residence always ranks highly; so, for many, do good schools for their children. The ability to get a proper cup of tea, a decent pint of beer and a fast WiFi connection are also high up some expats’ lists.
But according to Aetna International – which asked some 5,000 expats about their biggest concerns – health and healthcare actually emerged at the top of the lists of most of those surveyed.
(Admittedly, Aetna didn’t ask about tea, beer or WiFi signals…)
Indeed, as the chart below, which is based on the Aetna International research, shows, some 77% of those expats surveyed said that they were either “concerned” or “very concerned” about “the health and well-being of my family”.
According to David Healy, Aetna International’s chief executive of the EMEA region, this fact and other findings from the research make particularly interesting reading for employers of expats in particular, as they provide an insight into what they value most when they’re being sent abroad on assignment.
The survey was carried out towards the end of 2016, and queried mainly expatriates, although some local nationals also participated, drawn from a cross-section of jurisdictions in which Aetna International has operations.
Three-quarters (76%) of those surveyed were employed, and almost half said they had an income in excess of US$100,000, the insurance company said.
Second-highest on the list of issues that those surveyed said they were “concerned” or “very concerned” about was their own personal health and well-being, with 71% giving one of these two answers; 69%, meanwhile, said they were “concerned” or “very concerned” about the possibility of a significant rise in the overall cost of living in their adopted country.
Sixty-eight percent cited political unrest and an increased threat of terrorism as among their top concerns, and an equal number expressed concern about “global warming and climate change”, while just over half said they were “concerned” or “very concerned” about political instability in the country or region in which they currently live.
Expats value wellness but lack time
Like many people who don’t travel abroad to live, expatriates say they are keen to take an active role in maintaining good health, with 81% of the respondents interviewed by the Aetna International researchers saying they ‘agreed’ or ‘agreed strongly’ with the statement that people should take more responsibility for their own health, and 78% saying they agreed that keeping fit and healthy was a priority.
However, and also like many “homelanders”, those expats surveyed said they struggle to find the time to take steps to stay fit and healthy, such as through exercise, with around 40% to 50% saying lack of time was an issue.
As for stress, 60% of respondents agreed with the statement that “For me, stress is an unavoidable part of my life”.
Another finding that insurers in particular will find of interest is that around 48% of the expatriates surveyed by Aetna International were relaxed about the idea of consulting a medical professional via a smart phone or tablet rather than in person, and 52% agreed with the statement that the future of health care will be dominated by “virtual support” of this type.