Expats Leading Healthier Lives During Lockdown

According to a survey by Aetna International into their experiences during lockdown expats are actively taking control of their physical health while they struggle with their mental health.  63.6% of expats admit that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted their mental health and more than half of them would rather live in their home country during the coronavirus pandemic

The data has been revealed in the Expat Experiences Survey 2020, published by international health benefits provider, Aetna International. The report, which surveyed 1,000 expats in the UK, the U.S., China, Thailand, Singapore and the UAE, explores the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has had on expat health and wellbeing – addressing both mental and physical health.

 

The survey found that expats across the globe are actively taking control of their physical health, pursuing healthier diets and exercising more amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. In fact:

  • 59.9% are eating more healthily during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • 43.4% of expats are exercising more during the crisis
  • 37.1% of expats don’t drink alcohol, while 27.8% are drinking less alcohol.

While most expats are leading healthier lives, some expats have struggled to adjust their lifestyle and dietary habits for the better. For example:

  • 21.6% of expats are eating less healthily
  • 18.2% of expats are drinking alcohol more
  • 29.7% of expats are exercising less, while a further 7.8% of expats say that they don’t exercise at all.

Please note that the level of exercise could be affected by the individual region’s lockdown rules. For example, when the survey was conducted, lockdown rules and regulations in the UK stated that people were allowed to go outside to exercise once per day.

 

Regional differences

Regionally, expats in Thailand appear to be living the most healthy lives during the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, the highest percentage of expats who are eating more healthily during the Covid-19 pandemic live in Thailand (80%) while the lowest percentage of expats who are eating more healthily live in the UK (48.8%).

The highest percentage of expats who are exercising more during the Covid-19 pandemic live in Thailand (57%) while the lowest percentage of expats who are exercising more live in Singapore (30.7%).

Expats in the U.S. and the UK are most likely to drink more alcohol during the pandemic (26% and 24.4%) while expats in Thailand are the least likely to drink more (9%).

 

Mental health

Overall 38.8% of expats said that they had suffered from a mental health issue as an expat, but this varies significantly based on where the expat is living with 59% of those in China and 46% of those in the US saying the suffered mental health issues.  On the other hand only 19% of those in the UAE and 16% in Singapore indicated that they had suffered from mental health issues.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, while many expats are taking positive steps in improving their physical health, many are struggling with their mental health:

  • 63.6% of expats admit that the pandemic has impacted their mental health despite only one third of respondents (38.8%) suffering from mental health issues
  • Only 29.1% of expats state that the pandemic has not impacted their mental health
  • 7.3% of expats ‘don’t know’ whether the pandemic has not impacted their mental health

Only 9% of those with mental health issues can say that their mental health has not deviated due to Covid-19 crisis, while 41% of those without mental health issues believe that their mental state has not changed during the pandemic.

Regionally, the USA and Thailand show the largest percentages of people who feel that their mental health has been seriously affected by Covid-19 (both report figures between 28-29%).

 

Expat attitudes and opinions during Covid-19

More than half of expats (56.3%) would rather live in their home country during the coronavirus pandemic.

The regional analysis reveals that a high percentage of expats in Thailand and China would rather live in their home countries during the Covid-19 pandemic (71% and 66%).

 

Dr Hemal Desai, Global Medical Director, Aetna International says: 

“As a large number of expats across the globe are actively pursuing healthier lives during the Covid-19 crisis, it shows that people understand the importance of achieving good health and well-being, especially during this difficult time. While most expats are leading healthier lifestyles and dietary habits, we must acknowledge some expats have struggled to pursue healthier options with about 1 in 5 eating less healthily or consuming more alcohol. In addition, over 60% of expats have admitted an impact on their mental health which is important to address.

“This is why it’s essential for expats and the globally mobile to have convenient access to virtual or digital health support – from digital counselling to self-help apps. Taking care of both your physical and mental health is critical which is why health and well-being support systems are so vital during these difficult times.”