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A new report on expat health has revealed that mental health is a growing issue for expats across the globe. The analysis looked at expat mental health claims between 2014 and 2016 and showed that these claims increased by 33 percent in Europe and 28 percent in the Middle East. The Americas showed an increase of 26 percent and Southeast Asia by 19 percent.

The rise of expat depression

Depression emerged as the prevalent condition for expats with a 50 percent increase, followed by anxiety with a 28 percent increase with women between the ages of 30 and 49 most likely to seek treatment. One of the main reasons expats are more susceptible to mental health issues like depression is the absence of their network of family and friends that they relied on for support back home.

Expats face many challenges when they move and often have to adjust quickly to new and often challenging situations including different cultures, languages and work responsibilities. If they don’t have emotional support in place, the challenge and stress can often result in the rise of anxiety and depression.

Expats are often mentally unprepared

A separate 2016 survey showed that just 6% of expats are concerned about mental health issues before relocating. The findings suggest that since expats are not considering the effect the risks, stress and challenges may have on them and their families, they are less likely to take steps to manage any potential issues in advance. The good news is that if expats take preventative measures to ward off depression and seek support before and after their move, they can prevent the rise of mental health issues.

Tips to help prevent expat depression:

  • Stay connected to your network back home

These days with digital channels like Skype and Whatsapp, it’s very easy to stay connected with family and friends back home through texting and video calls. This supportive contact is often essential during the first few months of your move when you need encouragement and support.

  • Build your network abroad

While it is important to stay connected to your network back home, it’s equally important that you start building your network in your new country. Expat forums like InterNations hold regular “meetups” in cities all around the world, where you can meet expats in similar positions. This creates a sense of community where you can share the challenges you are facing and also receive advice and establish friendships.

  • Learn the language

Don’t worry if you are not fluent in the local language right away, but make an effort to learn it before you leave and during your first few months abroad. Local language classes are a great place to meet expats in a similar position to you and once you know some local phrases, you will be able to start making connections with local residents. When it comes to language, a little goes a long way – and the support you will receive when you try out your new language skills is very affirming and heart-warming!

  • Take care of yourself

It’s very hard to be positive and motivated if you are not getting enough sleep or eating properly. You might be tempted during your first few months abroad to burn the candle at both ends as you establish your new home and career. Do your best to avoid this and rather create a work/life balance right from the start. Not only will you be in a better frame of mind to tackle your challenges, but taking time to enjoy your new country and socialise will also help add to your general sense of well being.

  • Don’t blame yourself

If you find that despite everything, you are feeling depressed and anxious, don’t waste time blaming yourself– seek professional help. Talking to a qualified therapist can help put your anxiety and fears into perspective and you will also learn some key skills to help maintain your mental health.

If you are a South African expat living abroad and would like to know more about how you can maximise your finances through financial emigration, accessing your South African retirement annuity and our tailor-made tax solutions for South Africans around the world, contact FinGlobal today.