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
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.