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Analysis: Expats and mental health

Mental health is a growing issue for expats; workers and their employers, as well as those relocating independently, according to a recent research study by Aetna International. Expatriate mental health: breaking the silence and ending the stigma, calls for businesses and individuals to take more pre-emptive action to combat the problem, to ensure expats have the vital support they need when relocating or working away from their home country.

A survey of 5,000 Aetna International members in 2016 revealed that that just 6% per cent of expats are concerned about mental health issues before relocating. The findings also suggest that since most expats have a mind-set open to risk and challenges, some of them may consequently be less likely to take steps to manage any potential issues in advance, not just for themselves, but their accompanying dependant family members as well.

“There are many challenges that expats face which can result in debilitating mental health issues if ignored,” said Derek Goldberg, managing director, Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, for Aetna. “Often, they have to adjust quickly to new and sometimes very different cultures, languages and work responsibilities, and without the usual social support networks back home,” he added. 

According to Aetna International member data between 2014-2016, mental health claims prevalence in Europe showed the greatest increase (33%), followed by the Middle East and Africa (28%), the Americas (26%) then Southeast Asia (19%). Half of respondents showed that depression emerged as the most prevalent condition, followed by anxiety with women between the ages of 30 and 49 were the most likely to seek treatment. 

“Part of the reason expats are more susceptible to mental health issues is the absence of the family and friends network they relied on for support back home,” said Aetna medical director Mitesh Patel. “We believe that employers should be taking a more preventive approach, introducing solutions such as employee assistance programmes.”

He continued: “At best, these not only tackle mental health concerns when they arise, but encourage broader employee wellness to address issues before they escalate. Similarly, expats relocating independently should also consider preparing for the challenges they may face and seeking support before and during their move. Increasing knowledge around mental health issues and the support available can change attitudes towards those with mental health, and the behaviour of those coping with issues.”

Posted on: 29/06/2017 UTC+08:00


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