Most expats are ‘burnt out’

Expat stress world wide has reached an all-time high. Almost all expats are having symptoms of burnout. These are some of the findings of a Global Well-Being Survey of 11.922 people by the insurance giant Cigna 360.

The vast majority of expats are burnt out, stressed and reevaluating life and work priorities for more flexibility or to be closer to family and friends, according to a report based on the eighth edition of the Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey.

The report “Burnt Out Overseas – The State of Expat Life 2022” found that 90% of expats are stressed and 98% have experienced symptoms of burnout – likely driven by feeling unable to switch off from work.

Expats are experiencing an overwhelming sense of isolation, with 87% reporting feeling helpless, trapped or defeated and 86% feeling detached or alone. Meanwhile, more than a third (38%) are also concerned or uncertain about their financial situation.

Contributing to these findings is a mix of lifestyle, opportunity and work culture factors.

The study found that 73% of current expats, and 75% of those who plan to move overseas in the next two years, have spent more time reevaluating their life priorities since the pandemic. Lifestyle now replaces finances as the top priority for those planning to move overseas. An example is, that a quarter of all expats plan to move to access better healthcare instead of better finances, which in the past was the driver.

Jason Sadler, President, Cigna International Markets, said employers face a real challenge in meeting this lifestyle shift and rethinking the expat value proposition.

“Employers may face huge challenges in filling 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 moves.”

Healthcare has become a priority for all groups, with 23% of existing expats considering moving to gain access to better healthcare. Work life balance is also critical, with more than a quarter of aspiring expats saying flexible hours are critical and 16% saying they want the ability to work from any location in the world.

“From now on, it’s likely that organizations will need to reevaluate how they structure expat assignments. Personal and family needs are now at the forefront of decision-making, and this may impact the benefits expats prioritize when selecting roles,” added Sadler.

The survey also found Canada is the top destination for existing expats to move to, with 11% wanting to relocate there. Australia and the U.S. tied in second place. The significant majority of those living in Europe and Australia are confident they will remain living overseas, but the same cannot be said for Asia, with only 5% of those in India and 16% of those in Mainland China confident they will stay.

Expat age profiles are also changing, with senior employees now more likely to want to return or remain in their home countries while younger staff seek out overseas moves. Only 13% of those over the age of 50 say they want to move overseas, compared to 37% of those aged 18 to 24, and 34% of those aged 25 to 34.

Looking ahead, Dr. Stella George, Chief Medical Officer, Cigna International Markets, said the expat age demographic is expected to change.

“The past couple of years during the pandemic have been especially challenging for existing and long term expats,” said Dr. George.

“So, while many will be moving closer to home, many ambitious younger professionals will also start taking advantage of the opportunities that overseas postings offer, such as quick promotion, flexible working and other incentives. These benefits are especially attractive to people earlier in their careers.”

The eight edition of the Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey was conducted by Cigna International Markets, in partnership with Kantar, a leading data, insights, and consulting company. More than 11,900 people from Australia, Belgium, Mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, UAE, UK and USA were surveyed for the research in May this year. It examined five key components – family, financial, physical, social, and work – to uncover the latest trends and challenges for the health and well-being of expats.

Online sampling used respondents recruited from panels that undergo rigorous quality control and the panel composition is representative of the adult population in each of the surveyed markets.

About Cigna
Cigna Corporation is a global health service company dedicated to improving the health, well being and peace of mind of those we serve. Cigna delivers choice, predictability, affordability and access to quality care through integrated capabilities and connected, personalized solutions that advance whole person health. All products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, Evernorth companies or their affiliates, and Express Scripts companies or their affiliates. Such products and services include an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, vision, supplemental benefits, and other related products.

Cigna maintains sales capability in over 30 countries and jurisdictions and has more than 175 million customer relationships throughout the world. To

Market Data
• 69% of non-GM very unlikely to relocate in the next 24 months for any reason
• Of those unlikely to relocate, almost 70% say that feeling close to their family is a barrier, followed by 60% saying they feel this is a safe country, and 55% saying it is a better lifestyle
• Overall, 53% say they have spent more time re-evaluating lifestyle priorities

Australia Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore
• 48% say cost of living is a significant stressor followed by personal finance at 37%
• 60% consider themselves to be “stressed but manageable”. One-quarter of those who are currently GM consider themselves to be “stressed but not manageable”
• 35% consider their overall health & well-being to be “good”, followed by “very good” at 30% • 35% consider their financial well-being to be “good”, followed by 29% at “fair”.
• Of those likely to relocate, 47% intend to return to their country of citizenship
• Top destinations for current expats in HK who would relocate are Canada at 20%, Australia at 18%, Japan at 12% and Mainland China at 12%
• For those looking to relocate from Hong Kong, the most cited reasons are lifestyle concerns (48.5%), to be closer to their family (18%) and COVID-19 restrictions (17%).
• 40% consider uncertainty about the future to be the most significant source of stress, followed by personal finance at 34% and world politics at 26%
• 24% consider their health and well-being to be “excellent” or “very good”. But 30% consider their health and well-being to be “fair” or “poor”, higher than Asia-Pacific average of 24%.
• 81.4% of non-GM in Japan more likely to stay for the next 24 months – a higher proportion than Singapore, China, Hong Kong, India, and Australia
• Among those likely to relocate for any reason, the U.S. is the top destination at 19%, followed by Taiwan at 13% and Canada at 10%
• 66% of Japan-based respondents cited safety as a barrier for them to relocate elsewhere, higher than the global average of 50%
• 25% cited lifestyle as a driver of relocation, followed by job opportunities at 17%
• 31% cited world politics as a significant stressor, ahead of personal finance and uncertainty about the future at 26%, then COVID-19 at 16%
• 61% think that they are “stressed but manageable” – slightly lower than the global average of 68%.
• 32% of GM in Singapore likely to relocate in the next 24 months
• 38% of GM in Singapore likely to move back to home country within 24 months
• Of those future GM planning to relocate from Singapore, 56% cited work as the main reason, then 53% cited retirement
• Among non-GM who want to relocate, the top destination countries are Australia at 30%, Malaysia at 20%, and New Zealand 13%

• For existing expats in Singapore, better lifestyle is the top driver of relocation (36%), followed by better financially (32%), being closer to family (30%), better weather (20%), and job prospects (18%)
• 95% of GM in Singapore experience symptoms of burnout
• Top causes of stresses for current GM include cost of living at 36%, personal finance at 29% and too much work at 29%.
• 47% of current GM in APAC likely to move to another country within 24 months
• Of the future GM planning to relocate, top destination countries are Australia (21%), the UK (17%) and Canada (16%)
• Lifestyle considerations are the highest driver of relocation in APAC, with 41% citing this as contributing to relocation – the highest of any region

Asia Pacific Region
• For those unlikely to relocate, the biggest barriers to relocation are safety (57%), feeling close to family here (56%) and fitting into the culture here (44%)
• 59% of APAC-based respondents say they agree or strongly agree that they have spent more time reevaluating lifestyle choices compared to two years ago
• 69% of APAC respondents say they either “agree” or “strongly agree” that being close to family and friends is more important to them lately
• 41% of APAC respondents say they have “very good” or “excellent” health and well-being • 71% of APAC respondents consider themselves to be “stressed but manageable”.


About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Gregers Møller

One Comment on “Most expats are ‘burnt out’”

  1. Dear ScandAsia,

    This looks an awful lot like a “copy-paste press release” from a major player in the insurance business.

    Did you do it in order to fill up empty space, or simply because they’re one of your sponsors?

    In any case, CIGNA is one of the most expensive insurance companies one could choose, irrespective of which country.

    The normal-income expat in SE Asia would be much better adviced to seek out a local insurance company.

    This is NOT investment advice, only my personal opinion, haha!😃

    /Mr Pekka

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