By Becky Sorrensen
Does moving abroad really make you happier and healthier? The answer is yes, according to several studies by international expats.
The studies also show that the many of those who have lived overseas but returned to their native countries, regretted the decision. Some, even plan a return to expat life.
Expats interviewed in Ecuador reflected the overall satisfaction with life overseas, according to a University of Toronto study. “More than 75% of them said their health was better and their lives were more carefree than they were back home,” said researcher Calvin Estes. “Almost all of those we talked to, who were mostly U.S. citizens, say they eat better and walk more in communities like Cuenca, Otavalo and Vilcabamba. They also say they worry less than they did before they moved.”
A InterNations survey also found greater satisfaction with life abroad. “Those responding say that their lives are richer and that their relationships are stronger and more stimulating than back home,” the report said. In general, the report said that the level of health, wealth and happiness was higher among those living outside their home country.
An online poll of 1,000 people conducted earlier this years for international relocations company MoveHub showed similar results. Half the respondents (located in the UK and Ireland) had spent time living abroad, and half had not. A total of 69 per cent of expats rated their health as good or even very good compared with only 58 per cent of people who had lived in just one country.
When it comes to happiness, 63 per cent of expats described themselves as happy or very happy compared with only 43 per cent of others. And 40 per cent of those who’d tasted expat life said they were making a lot of money or were on a good salary. This is compared with 28 per cent of those who had not lived overseas.
Among retirees, the stimulation of life in a new culture ranked high. “After I retired in Atlanta, I was spending too much time sitting in my Laz-e-boy recliner in front of the television,” said Cuenca expat Jesse Sanders in the University of Toronto study. “When I finally got off my rear end and moved to Ecuador, life for me and my wife turned around. Suddenly, we were outside exploring, meeting new friends and doing some traveling,” he said.
The University of Toronto study also showed that many of those who gave up expat life and returned home, regretted their decision. “This was a real surprise for us,” said researcher Estes. “We thought that those who had given overseas life a try and gone back would be satisfied with their decisions.”
Virginia native Alison Casterling is an example of Estes’ findings. Over a six-years span, she had lived in Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador. “I missed things about the U.S., mostly my friends and family,” Casterling said. “But almost as soon as moved back home I realized why I left the U.S. in the first place. During my time as an expat, especially in Cuenca, I had seen how people live overseas and learned how much more sensible and simple it is. I saw how families stay together and take care of each other, something we lost in the U.S. many years ago. Now, I’m back in the land of waste and over-consumption where everything seems to be driven by the almighty dollar.”
Casterling, like others in the Toronto survey, say she is seriously considering moving overseas again.