The majority of expats have struggle with mental health issues while working and living overseas, according to new research.
This survey — by Axa Global Healthcare to mark World Mental Health Day (Oct 10) — found that nine out of 10 expats said they felt isolated during their time abroad, with half of these (48 per cent) saying missing friends and family was the primary reason.
Language barriers (24 per cent), a lack of a local support network (20 per cent) were also key facts that led to expats feeling isolated.
When asked about their experience of living abroad a quarter (26 per cent) had a negative view of the experience, with most of these feeling either stressed or isolated. Others reported feeling bored, lethargic or angry about their experience.
Axa chief executive Tom Wilkinson says: “Moving abroad is a huge adjustment for all expats, and it’s incredibly common to experience feelings of isolation, but they shouldn’t last forever. Making sure that you take care of yourself is really important and looking after your mental health is just as important as your physical health.”
It’s not all bad news, though. The survey found a third (34 per cent) of expats spent more time eating out with friends than before they moved, while three in 10 (30 per cent) increased the amount of exercise they did
Wilkinson adds: “There are a lot of factors that contribute to your mental strength, like exercise and spending time socialising. Sometimes, it can take time to adjust and build a new support network though, and another way to address negative feelings is to work on building up your resilience. That doesn’t mean you won’t face difficulties anymore; it just means you’ll feel better equipped to deal with them when they do come up.”
Axa says there area number of ways expats can improve their mental health and build resilience. These include, focusing on the positive, building a support network and looking after yourself physically. It can also help to break down the problem into more manageable pieces – for example focusing solely on one or two specific issues to do with new working practices.