Expat Health and Wellbeing in 2017
Our new series will take a look at how moving to a new country will affect your health in ways you might not have considered.
Job offer - check. House – check. Visa - sorted. But your health? Your answer might be ‘it’s fine – I’m pretty healthy’. With figures showing the majority (62%) of globally mobile professionals looking to live and work in another country are within the 18-35 year old age bracket, concerns about health may not seem like the most pressing issue on your ‘to-do’ list.
As a Dutchman, having lived in multiple countries outside of my home country for almost 10 years, one thing I can say without reservation is that moving to a new country will affect your health – positively or negatively, subtly or significantly, in some way or another – and in many ways which may come as a surprise. In South Korea I quickly learned that an annual medical check-up is part of everyday life, very often provided by your employer. When we moved to Hong Kong, we had to deal with air pollution and concerns about air quality definitely became part of our consideration after we moved on from this amazing city. And in the UK, taking part in outdoor activities such as rugby and horse riding was much easier for our children than it was in humid Southeast Asia. Each move presented different challenges and benefits for our health, and opened up my eyes to just how much living abroad can affect your wellbeing.
Globally, life abroad continues to be a positive experience for the majority of expats. More than twice as many (52%) say they see an improvement in their quality of life compared to (22%) who do not and the majority (61%) feel they have integrated well with the local people and culture. Integrating with locals and making friends in your new community is very important for both mental and emotional health.
To help raise awareness of health issues for people moving abroad to live and work, Cigna recently hosted a first-of-its-kind event. The ‘Innovations in Health and Wellbeing’ networking event was about bringing together globally mobile professionals who had decided to move to London. It seemed so apt, with London being recognised as the multi-cultural ‘go to’ city for employment opportunities, for this city to host our inaugural event. The focus was on health, wellbeing and ‘innovations’ - how technology can have a role in streamlining, capturing and directing how we approach health.
We were excited to partner with InterNations – the leading social networking site for people who have moved abroad, inviting London-based members along to network with other similar ‘globally minded individuals’ living in the same city.
There were activities to take part in –the ‘smoothie-bike’ where guests could blitz up their favourite smoothie while spin cycling – it turned out to be a competitive event for our guests so prizes were given to the fastest smoothie makers! Technology giants, Apple, were also in attendance to showcase their Series 2 watch – an easy way to tap into health and fitness apps while on the move. Cigna now provide a series of health and wellbeing apps. The most recent, Cigna Coach App, has over 300 instructional and motivational videos to help you exercise more, eat smarter, sleep better, reduce stress, lose weight and generally be healthier.
The goal was to highlight wellbeing and health as an issue not to be overlooked while living and working abroad - we want you to be healthy – and so it’s important not to forget about mental health too. We showcased a Virtual Relaxation pod, allowing the user to experience a scenic environment of their choice – peaceful woodland, relaxing tropical beach or Zen garden – while listening to an expert’s guide through a brief meditation session in order to calm and sooth the mind. Data shows that only 10 minutes a day of relaxation can aid mental health and combat stress.
Cigna hopes to host similar events in other locations around the world. Find out more and keep an eye out for future, similar event on the Cigna Global website. But even if you can’t attend one of ours, there are plenty of other health-focused events happening all around the globe! Here are a few of our favourites:
- World Happiness Day takes place on 20 March and celebrates the importance of happiness in terms of its links to health and wellbeing. Find out what events are taking place near you to celebrate the day!
- The Color Run takes place in locations all over the world and offers runners the opportunity to join the “happiest 5k on the planet”. If you're taking part, be prepared for a color explosion!
- Critical Mass – originating in San Francisco in 1992, CM is a cycling event which now takes place in over 300 locations worldwide. In London, for example, there's an event on the last Friday of every month.
- Morning Gloryville - global, alternative and holistic, this dance event also provides free massages! Its values are to promote wellness and vitality while celebrating the coming together of all people from all backgrounds.
- The Dubai Fitness Expo aims to instill health and wellness in the hearts of people from all around the world. While the headline event will take place in Pakistan, there are many strength and fitness events and competitions happening across the globe.
- World Fitness Day takes place on 22 July in Frankfurt, with supporting events taking place globally. Discover a world of fitness, nutrition, health and well-being.
Arjan Toor, Managing Director at Cigna Global