Home » Expat Focus International Healthcare Update May 2024

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update May 2024

Expats Are Stressed – But Do They Cope Better With Burnout?

A recent survey, the Cigna Healthcare Vitality Study, suggests that 89% of expats are suffering from stress – a finding that probably won’t come as a great surprise. But the results indicate that expats might also be better at coping with burnout. In addition, they express high levels of vitality, of satisfaction at their relocation (particularly expats in the Middle East and in Africa), and ‘good overall well-being.’ Family ties and financial security were expressed as being particularly important to the latter.

The highest level of vitality is experienced by expats in Hong Kong, Singapore, the USA and the UK. They are 12% more likely to enjoy their jobs than the locals – with a vitality score of 71.7% compared to 66.7% – but expats with low vitality do struggle with their mental health. Cigna’s Wendy Sherry says:

“Globally mobile employees often have higher levels of vitality – a mental and physical feeling of being healthy, capable, and energetic – and a strong sense of meaning and purpose. The various facets of our lives – including social, occupational, and financial – are all connected, and we see this in our globally mobile survey results. Occupational well-being can boost emotional mood, which can enable improved physical health. On the other hand, expats may experience social isolation, which can compound emotional difficulties, aggravate stress, and increase the chances of burnout.”

Expats struggle with:

  • financial instability (38%)
  • feelings of homesickness (23%)
  • work/life balance (18%)
  • health-related issues such as access to health care (18%)
  • finding suitable housing (17%)

They also told the survey that the rising cost of living was an issue which had a negative impact.

Overall, 86% of respondents to the survey reported suffering from stress and 96% said that they had experienced burnout. Interestingly, there is a regional element to this: stress was most evident among expats in Asia and the Middle East, and within Asia, stress levels ran at 89% in Singapore and 91% in Hong Kong. In the UAE and Saudi Arabia, they were at 90%, and they were at 94% in Kenya. However, in Europe levels were lower: for example, at 79% in Spain and 67% in the Netherlands. This is in large part job related. The upside is that expats feel more enthusiasm for their jobs and more engagement with their work, but the downside is that they tend to work harder and thus experience higher levels of burnout.

This survey follows an announcement from Cigna in January of the company’s new initiative Your Health Plan, Your Growth Plan, which aims to reduce the risks of burnout for companies by focusing on employee health.

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Taipei Named as ‘Best City’ for Healthcare

In April, the UK’s Daily Express revealed findings that the best city globally for healthcare has been named as Taipei in Taiwan, which has short waiting times for medical services and excellent accessibility: over 76 hospital beds per 1000 patients, for instance. Second best was Seoul, and in Europe, the Hague scored highly. The top ten findings were:

  1. Taipei, Taiwan
  2. Seoul, South Korea
  3. The Hague, Netherlands
  4. Valencia, Spain
  5. Madrid, Spain
  6. Rotterdam, Netherlands
  7. Helsinki, Finland
  8. Tokyo, Japan
  9. Guadalajara, Mexico
  10. Glasgow, UK

ABTA Tells Travellers to Check Their Insurance

ABTA has warned travellers to make sure that they have adequate insurance to cover health emergencies when abroad, pointing out that the cost of an air ambulance to the UK from the EU rose by about £9K between 2019 and 2023. Travelling on a GHIC is risky, because the card does not cover repatriation, and although reciprocal health costs between the UK and other nations are in place, they do not extend to cover all situations. You should also make sure that your policy covers particular activities, such as winter sports, and that you make a full declaration of any pre-existing conditions.

UK Government Upgrades Health Warnings for Peru

Peru is currently experiencing an outbreak of dengue fever, and the UK authorities are warning travellers to the region to be aware of this, having upgraded their risk assessment to ‘yellow.’ They say:

‘To protect yourself from mosquito-borne diseases, make sure your accommodation is insect-proof, use insect repellent and wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing.’

Weight Loss Drug Now Available in Spain

Weight loss drug Wegovy is available in Spain from May after its approval by The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (Aemps), but health authorities say that it will only be available on prescription and if you meet certain conditions:

  • If you have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30kg/m2 or greater than 27 kg/m²
  • If you have diabetes
  • If you have high blood pressure
  • If you have abnormal levels of fats in your blood
  • If you have respiratory disorders during sleep
  • If you have a history of heart attack, stroke or vascular pathologies

The cost will depend on the dosage but will be in the region of €200. If you’re in Spain and want to consider trying this new medication, discuss it with your GP, as the drug, which is related to Ozempic, is not suitable for everyone and can also have side effects.

France: Private Medical Workers Will Strike From June

In France, the private medical establishment will be affected by strikes from June. Over 200,000 healthcare workers in the private sector are planning to take industrial action, supported by the French Federation of Private Hospitals (Fédération de l’Hospitalisation Privée/FHP), which could affect around 1000 medical establishments. The strikes are planned in protest over the funding gap between state and private hospitals, following the French government’s recent announcement that funding of 0.3% would be made to private hospitals compared with a 4.3% increase to state hospitals. Workers say that this gap will jeopardise private hospitals, which currently account for 35% of all hospital activity.

Pascal Roché, Directeur général chez Ramsay Santé, states on LinkedIn:

“This discrimination is not new, but it is reaching unacceptable levels. At present, a chemotherapy treatment is paid 17% less in the private sector than the same treatment in the public sector, a hip replacement 23% less, and the treatment of a pulmonary embolism 34% less. The government wants to increase these disparities to unsustainable levels.”

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