Man walking along woodland path

Rebecca Freer

Family, finances and fears for the future: findings from AXA's Mind Health Study

Emotional wellbeing

PUBLISHED: 20 June 2022 | LAST UPDATED: 4 October 2023

Along with its many advantages, living in a different country poses a unique set of challenges at the best of times. From cultural differences and language barriers, to isolation and homesickness, there’s plenty that can be difficult.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, significantly enhanced many of these challenges. People found themselves physically isolated; parents had to juggle home-schooling with work; travel was difficult or impossible; jobs were at risk; hospitality and exercise facilities had to close. It was a tough time, and the effects are still being felt by many.

As part of our ongoing commitment to helping people look after their mental wellbeing, AXA recently published its largest mental health study AXA has ever conducted, canvassing opinion from 11,000 people across 11 European and Asian countries and territories to advise how communities, workplaces and individuals can tackle mind health issues in the wake of COVID-19. 

For AXA – Global Healthcare, our focus was on the 1,484 (13.5%) non-native respondents, people who live in a different country to the one they were born in The Mind Health and Wellbeing Study. We found that just one-in-six felt they were ‘flourishing’, compared to one-in-four of those living in their home nation. There were several contributing factors, but three stood out to us as particularly pertinent: The impact of the pandemic on expats’ families, finances and their feelings about the future.


Parenting abroad is complicated. Trying to do it during (and post) a pandemic, though, adds a whole new layer of complication. We saw evidence of this in our research, with non-natives who had children being significantly less likely to have ‘flourished’ during lockdown than non-parents. 

Looking a little more closely at the data, we actually found that parents with only one child were far less likely to thrive than those with two or more. We know from previous research that having your first child in a new country can be very isolating, as you adapt without the support of family and friends. It seems that during the pandemic, this isolation intensified, with parents of multiple children presumably able to rely on siblings to entertain each other.

But with lockdown having eased – or even been lifted entirely – in most countries, it’s important to remember that there are plenty of benefits to raising a family abroad. Whether you’re preparing to move or are struggling to adjust, it’s entirely possible to make the most of life in a new country.


A third (35%) of the non-natives we surveyed said that financial issues have negatively impacted their mental health, with over half of people on a lower income were said to be languishing or struggling.

Feeling anxious about finances is totally understandable in today’s climate. Many people have faced some kind of economic uncertainty during the pandemic, but the non-natives who took part in this research may have felt it particularly keenly. Many will have been on short-term or temporary contracts, with more than a quarter (27%) of those we spoke with having lost all or part of their job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also possible they’ll have had fewer entitlements to state support than the local nationals, which will have made getting by even harder. 

In short, it’s no surprise they’re feeling worried. There are some steps you can take to protect your finances while living abroad, from choosing the best currency to receive your wages in to finding the right bank accounts and credit cards. If you’re still worried about how your finances are affecting your mental wellbeing, though, it’s worth speaking with a trusted professional.

Fears for the future

One finding from our research which seemed particularly troubling was that only 38% of non-native respondents felt optimistic about the future, compared with 44% of local nationals. Likewise, 37% of the non-native residents surveyed said that they were feeling pessimistic, compared to just 31% of locals. 

For around a third of expats, financial security, job and income security seemed to have a particular impact on their health and wellbeing. Others were concerned about their career prospects, with two-in-five (39%) feeling uncertain about the future of their career. 

When you’ve been struggling for a while, it can be difficult to imagine how things might get better. Our research found that non-natives felt they lacked support when it came to mental health and wellbeing, something which is bound to contribute to their pessimistic views on their future. It’s vital, therefore, that employers who are sending people abroad ensure they have the support they need.

Throughout the pandemic, virtual tools such as AXA’s own Mind Health service have become widely adopted, as well as  quizzes to quickly measure anxiety providing an effective means of supporting employees around the world. We hope organisations will continue rolling these tools out, and that those expats who are struggling will feel they have a place to turn for help. Because managing mental health isn’t just for times of crisis. It’s important that we try to make small improvements in everyday life too.

We hope this report will help individuals and families living abroad, as well as their employers, take care of their mind health while discovering the world. By focusing on the challenges this unique community has faced over the last two years, our hope is that these insights will help non-natives find ways to recover and flourish after the pandemic. 

To download the full report, visit:

* Research conducted in October 2021 by Ipsos Access panel. A total of 11,000 total respondents (1,000 in Hong Kong, 1,000 in Switzerland, 1,000 in Ireland, 1,000 in the UK, 1,000 in Spain, 1,000 in Belgium, 1,000 in Germany, 1,000 in France, 1,000 in Italy, 1,000 in Japan, and 1,000 in China) of whom 1,484 were non-natives (378 in Hong Kong, 258 in Switzerland, 257 in Ireland, 132 in the UK, 124 in Spain, 95 in Belgium, 94 in Germany, 66 in France, 39 in Italy, 29 in Japan, and 12 in China) were surveyed.