Two women laughing over coffee

Does moving abroad make you happier?

PUBLISHED: 16 December 2019 | LAST UPDATED: 4 October 2023

Does moving abroad make you happier? 

If you’re one of the 281 million people living outside of their country of origin1, you might already know how moving to a new country can lead to a happier, more fulfilled life. And if you’re thinking about making the move, we can tell you the outlook is certainly positive. Whether you’re looking to move abroad for work, to retire, or for a better quality of life, research commissioned by AXA – Global Healthcare earlier this year2 showed that 67% of people who’d moved abroad found that the experience had affected them positively.  

Nerves are normal 

If you’re considering a move abroad, there’s a lot to think about, and you’ll probably have the same questions and concerns as many who have gone before you. We asked expats what factors made it difficult for them to move abroad, and some of the biggest concerns were the distance away from their friends and families, making new friends, the weather and the language barrier. It seems, however, that on the whole, the benefits of the move outweigh these concerns. 

Why make the leap? 

Expat life can open up new opportunities and experiences that may not have been available (or as appealing) at home. Our research found that the most popular reasons for moving overseas were work related. 30% of participants moved abroad for better career opportunities, 23% for better pay and benefits and 21% moved for a better work-life balance. 

18% however, moved abroad solely in pursuit of a new adventure and 13% moved simply because they’d always wanted to live in the particular country they moved to. 

Whatever the reason, the evidence is clear that a move abroad could, indeed, make you happier. 

Survey responses on how living abroad has effected expats by AXA

Reaping the rewards 

What is it about moving abroad that makes people happier? When we asked expats what the best thing was about moving abroad, the top five answers were:

  • the lifestyle 
  • the improved pay and benefits 
  • the career experience 
  • the work-life balance 
  • the opportunity to meet new people 

Almost half (46%) of respondents said their work-life balance had improved since moving. Of those, 35% said it was because there were better leisure opportunities, 32% said they had more disposable income and 32% said they were able to spend more time with their family. 

Whether you’ve moved or are thinking of moving for work, family life, or for your retirement, it seems there are benefits for everyone. 

Pushing the boundaries 

We all know that feeling of pride and achievement we get when we overcome a challenge – perhaps the key to happiness is pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone, trying something new and coming out the other end. 

And moving abroad certainly presents some challenges. It’s said that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do, but what if the house you’re moving to is in a different country, or even a different continent? Whilst relocating can be an exciting and enriching experience, for many it comes with its own set of challenges. Some of the expats who took part in our expatriate survey described feeling stressed (9%) and isolated (8%), bored (4%), lethargic (3%), and angry (2%), but the good news it that there are things that can be done to help with these feelings.  

Plan ahead
If you’ve not moved to another country before, it can be hard to know where to start. When we asked expats what they spent the most time preparing for before they moved, the top five responses were:

  • looking for accommodation 
  • getting the correct visa, immigration and travel documents 
  • searching for a new job 
  • organising finances 
  • arranging transport and travel.

Build your resilience 
Our resilience is what helps us to bounce back when faced with challenges in life. It’s a skill that can be learnt and developed – the more resilient we are, the more we feel able to cope when under pressure or in stressful situations. 

Take a look at our resilience guide to find out more about what resilience is, what it looks like and how you can build your bounce back ability. 

Build and use your support network 
It’s important to know our limits and ask for help when we need it. A solid support network, whether it’s colleagues, friends or family, will always mean there’s someone to turn to. 

It can become a little more difficult if you’ve moved to a new country, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t support available. If you’re an AXA - Global Healthcare customer with access to the Virtual Doctor Service, the team of experienced doctors are on hand if ever you need a listening ear or a helping hand. You can find out more about the Virtual Doctor Service and how it could help you, here

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.


1. International Organization for Migration, World Migration Report 2022
2. Research conducted in February 2019 by Vitreous World. A total of 1,352 working  expats aged 24-50  were surveyed (250 in the UK, France, UAE, Canada and China, and 100 in Hong Kong)