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For generations we’ve believed that warmer, sunnier climates are better for our health. Over the years literally thousands of expats have fulfilled their lifelong dream of retiring to a country where they can live with their windows open all year, wear shorts in the middle of winter and enjoy a barbecue at Christmas. Not to mention the common belief that such a climate is beneficial to one’s health and longevity.
Now however a study from Dr Santosh Jatrana of the Alfred Deakin Research Institute has revealed some surprising findings. The study analysed the health of more than 7,000 Australians to see if there were any noticeable differences between the ailments of those born within the Australian border and Australian-based expats who were born abroad.
Australia has always had a large expat population that has changed and morphed over the years. According to the latest Australian census almost a quarter of all current Australian citizens were born overseas. Since 1945 more than 7 million expats have arrived in the country with the most predominant nationalities hailing from New Zealand, the UK, India and China. Many of these have opted for Australia over other potential destinations at least in part for the climate.
However the startling results of Dr. Jatrana’s investigation suggest that expats moving to warmer climates actually do not experience better overall levels of health. Worse, those from non-English speaking countries were more likely to suffer health problems than native Australians.
It seems that long term expats are particularly affected by these health issues. In terms of bad health, those individuals that were born overseas yet have lived in Australia for at least a decade fared worse that those who had lived in the country for shorter periods of time.
Furthermore, the longer that expats have lived in Australia the more likely they are to experience similar levels of physical and mental health disorders as the native population. This is most likely as a result of adopting the Australian lifestyle. While it’s tempting to look at the positive elements such as the warmth and sunshine, the outdoor lifestyle and physical activity levels, there are also risk factors such as an increased consumption of red meat and alcohol that are common in Australian culture.
The message is that moving abroad to a warmer climate won’t automatically improve your health as many people believe. It’s also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle rather than adopting that of your adopted country.
Furthermore, expats might be well advised to consider the lifestyle of potential new destinations in order to make a fair assessment of your likely health should you move there. As always, investing in an expatriate health insurance policy is recommended before leaving home to ensure you have the necessary protection.
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