Burned Out Overseas - The State of Expat Life 2022

The past two years has changed the lives of expats. Burnout is rising, stress is at an all-time high, and priorities are changing. 

Assumptions about Expat life are challenged

Over the past two and a half years, expats have seen many of their assumptions about their lifestyle challenged. The world of easy travel, with the ability to visit family, friends and colleagues disappeared suddenly, and many found themselves separated by long quarantines, disrupted flights, job losses and visa requirements.

Earlier this year, as the world began a slow shift towards normality, we spoke to 11,922 people across the world to understand how their priorities have changed.

Our key findings:

  • Expat burnout is now endemic and money worries increase
  • There is a new younger Expat generation
  • Expat life priorities are at the forefront
  • Destinations are changing

Expat burnout is now endemic and money worries increase

While memories of the pandemic are fading in many parts of the world, its enduring impact continues to be felt. Expat stress levels have reached an all-time high, with 90% reporting that they were stressed, significantly higher than people living in their home market (77%).

Perhaps more worrying is that 98% of people we spoke to had experienced symptoms of expat burnout, driven, most likely, by the fact that 89% said they are ‘always on’, constantly connected and unable to switch off from work. 

The isolation that many expats are experiencing is having an ongoing impact on their well-being. 87% said they feel helpless, trapped or defeated and 86% feel detached or alone in the world. While these issues also arise amongst non-expats, the incidence is significantly lower, with 68% of locals saying they felt helpless, and 64% feeling detached.

This will be a huge challenge for employers hoping to fill overseas assignments in the future. The exciting, rewarding, globally mobile lifestyle that used to sum-up the ‘expat dream’ has changed and more people are now prioritizing lifestyle, family and friends when planning future moves. 73% of expats said they have spent time re-evaluating their life priorities since the onset of the pandemic, and 76% said that being close to family and friends is more important than before.

We also see rising financial concerns amongst those overseas, contributing to expat burnout. Only 38% said they were confident about the current financial situation, falling to 19% for expats currently resident in Switzerland. We also saw concerns about the long-term financial situation linger, with only 33% saying they felt they had sufficient savings for retirement, marginally higher than in 2021 when most of the world was in lockdown, but still a very low figure for a group that traditionally have been able to prioritize long-term savings.

98% of expats have experienced symptoms of burnout

87% feel helpless, trapped or defeated

73% of current expats have spent more time reevaluating their life priorities since the pandemic

Many expats saw their lifestyles completely up-ended by the experience of the pandemic, separated from family, friends and colleagues. The challenge now is to rethink the expat contract to reflect the experiences, and the new priorities, of those living overseas.

Jason Sadler, President International Markets

About this Study

To monitor and track the annual evolution of well-being, the Cigna 360 Global Well-Being Survey 2022 looked at five key components- family, financial, physical, social, and work. In partnership with Kantar, a leading data, insights and consulting company, Cigna International has analyzed the findings to uncover the latest trends and challenges for health and well-being.
We surveyed 11,922 people aged 18-65, in in Australia, Belgium, Mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, UAE, UK and USA.
The fieldwork for this survey was completed in April and May 2022.


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