SHARE
COPY LINK
PRESENTED BY CIGNA GLOBAL

Retiring overseas? Ageing, stress and how to ensure a healthy life abroad

Whether it’s a planned retirement move to a home in the sun, or a sudden desire to embrace a beloved host country for the long term, many ponder spending their ‘golden years’ living internationally.

Retiring overseas? Ageing, stress and how to ensure a healthy life abroad
Moving abroad to enjoy your golden years can be incredibly fulfilling. Photo: Getty Images

Turning your dream of living overseas into reality can be intensely rewarding. However, it is important to understand the stresses that come with it, how stress exacerbates common health conditions, and how these can be mitigated to ensure a happy, fulfilling life. 

In partnership with Cigna, we discuss the significant factors to consider before making plans to live abroad permanently.

Let’s talk about ageing

As much as we’d like to ignore the fact, as we grow older we are at greater risk of health problems. So it’s worth understanding some common conditions.   

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is by far the biggest threat to both men and women as they age. It encompasses a range of common conditions, from strokes and heart attacks to vascular dementia. Taking the United Kingdom as an example, CVD is responsible for 160,000 deaths each year. More pressingly, it is the impact of CVD on survivors that has greater consequences – strokes are one of the leading causes of disability in the UK , with two-thirds of survivors leaving the hospital with some kind of disability.   

Be prepared for the unexpected, get an international health insurance quote

Cancer is another leading threat to both men and women as they age. With the UK again as an example, 147,407 Britons died from cancer in 2020, out of an average of 375,000 new cases each year. One-third of all cancer cases were diagnosed in those over the age of 75. Breast cancer was the most common cancer diagnosed in the UK between 2016 and 2018, followed by prostate, lung and bladder cancers. While the survivability rates for many cancers are rapidly increasing, treatment and surgery does mean loss of mobility and quality of life for many patients. 

Mobility issues are another serious health problem faced by many as they grow older. After the age of 40, the number of people in the UK who require assistance to move freely begins to rise exponentially. Whether caused by the degradation of joints or other, more complicated issues, a loss of mobility can limit how much of the world an individual can engage with. 

While these figures may seem frightening, it’s worth remembering that medical science has led to significant increases in global life expectancy. The chances of surviving a life-threatening illness today are greater than at any point in history. 

What matters, however, is quality of life. We want to enjoy our later years rather than be impaired by illness. Therefore, any factors we can identify to help us avoid developing illnesses are worth paying close attention to.

Recent research shows the surprising role stress plays in the development of age-related diseases. The good news? This is a factor we can largely control. 

Stress and the human body

We’re all familiar with the sensation of being stressed – a rush of adrenalin, a flush of irritability and a pounding head. 

When we’re stressed, the body’s sympathetic nervous system releases adrenaline, as well as hormones such as cortisol, to spur us into a ‘fight or flight’ response, and lead us out of a dangerous situation. While this was a useful tool for our ancient ancestors, in the modern world it can do more harm than good. 

Increasingly, science is uncovering the myriad effects that prolonged stress can have on the human body. We’ve known for a long time that stress can harm the heart and circulatory system – prolonged stress can lead to a more rapid heartbeat and higher blood pressure, doubling the chances of having a heart attack or stroke

Research has also uncovered the role of stress in the development of many kinds of cancer. It indicates that the brain’s release of hormones during periods of prolonged stress can activate cancer cells, leading to rapid tumour growth. 

Stress also impacts the body’s immune system. When a person experiences prolonged stress, hormones again can significantly reduce the number of lymphocytes, a kind of white blood cell, weakening the body’s defences against infection. 

So, for most of us, if we can reduce stress in our daily lives, we can lessen our chances of falling ill. There are a number of techniques, practices and habits that can help reduce the effect of stress. For people living overseas, however, this may be more of a challenge. 

Enjoy the life you’ve planned for yourself abroad and build a policy that meets your specific health needs

Stress and living abroad

The experience of living abroad carries with it its own stressors. 

Chief among these are communication difficulties. A lack of understanding of language and cultural mores can be a constant source of stress for internationals, in particular when it comes to resources that may be needed, such as healthcare.

A lack of access to friendly support networks can also be a major stressor. A significant proportion of expats are individuals, so asking for help or having interactions may be difficult. Making friends can take time, and bring its own anxieties. 

Finally, there may be financial pressures – particularly for retirees, who likely have finite savings. Sudden disruptions to their lifestyle could mean a costly return to their home country, or a reduction in circumstances – in itself a major stressor. 

Stretch yourself: Staying active and connected to others can help vastly reduce stress levels. Photo: Getty Images

The most important consideration for older internationals 

As increasing numbers of people work, live and retire abroad, international health insurers are beginning to understand the role of stress for policyholders – in both recovery and prevention. Most insurers now actively address the stress experienced by internationals abroad through their coverage. 

Chiefly, many providers, such as Cigna Global, offer unlimited phone and online consultations with doctors, with clinical advice and prescriptions in the customer’s language. They also grant access to specialists and choice of hospitals within their network, giving clients peace of mind when it comes to serious illness.

Insurance providers, like Cigna Global, are also developing benefits tailored toward specific conditions, such as cancer. In such cases, in addition to treatment, telephone counselling and other disease-related costs, such as those for a wig, may be included. This provides needed support during a crisis, minimising the damage done by stress and boosting the chances of a full recovery. 

Finally, depending on the level of coverage, some insurers have deployed the use of dedicated services to give their policyholders advice on all areas of life abroad – from rubbish collections to family emergencies. A friendly voice acting as a guide means that many stressors faced by internationals can be minimised, if not eliminated. 

If you are planning to make a permanent move abroad, especially if you’re getting older, it’s important to consider how a potential insurer addresses the challenges of living abroad, and how it actively helps tackle stress. 

It is worth asking exactly what is offered in an international health insurance policy, beyond the coverage it has for illness and accidents. Does it offer consultations with a doctor in your language? What about counselling services? How will the policy offset the stresses of life abroad daily?

Important for retirees to know, if joining Cigna Global before the end of August, the company will upgrade their policy to include the highly-valued Vision and Dental add-on module for one year*, that covers eye tests, eyewear and a wide range of preventative, routine and major dental treatments. 

Enjoying your later years abroad can be a hugely rewarding and fulfilling experience. To make the most of it, make sure you invest in a policy that not only covers you for when you’re ill but also helps you stay fit, healthy and free of stress in the first place. 

Find out how Cigna can ensure you make the most of your life abroad, and request a quote for international health insurance today

*  – The free Vision and Dental policy upgrade is only applicable to new policies sold in August 2022 which will be eligible for 1 year free Vision and Dental cover. Premiums under $2k will not be eligible. Not applicable in conjunction with any other offer or discount.

Sources

Member comments

  1. Can someone explain why on The Local.DE all the stories are about, and from, the UK? Id didn’t sign up for The Local.UK

    The Italian and Spanish The Local are also mostly about Brexit and The UK folks living there and complaining how its not the same.

    Please, just news. Local to the country and focused on the country would be great.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

MOVING TO SWITZERLAND

All you need to know about bringing your pets to Switzerland

Planning pet travel to Switzerland can be overwhelming at the best of times, and the last thing you want to do is overlook some details that will delay your reunion with your furry friend. We’ve compiled all the key information that you need before making the journey to the land of cheese and chocolate.

All you need to know about bringing your pets to Switzerland

Passport

First things first: Whether you’re crossing the border in the company of a dog, cat or ferret, (for other animals see link at bottom of page) your pet must have an EU or EU-recognised pet passport from other European countries or territories (Switzerland, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Northern Ireland, Norway, San Marino, Vatican City), if they originally came from those countries to enter Switzerland.

For countries outside Europe (including the United Kingdom), a veterinary certificate and owner’s declaration must to be presented in the place of a pet passport.

Note: A maximum of five pets can be brought into Switzerland under the current pet regulations.

Microchip

In addition to packing your pet’s passport, your furry companion will also need to be microchipped (ISO standard 11784, scannable with a reader according to ISO standard 11785) prior to getting a rabies vaccination.

Rabies vaccination

Since dogs, cats, and ferrets can introduce diseases from other countries, travel with these animals is subject to strict veterinary regulations to prevent animal diseases being brought into Switzerland.

Animals younger than 12 weeks of the above-named species do not have to be vaccinated against rabies. In any case, the owner must confirm by means of a written declaration that their pet has never come into contact with wild animals whose species is susceptible to rabies since birth. The latter includes but is not limited to bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.

Dogs, cats, and ferrets between 12 and 16 weeks old must be vaccinated against rabies. If said pet is to enter Switzerland earlier than 21 days after its vaccination, the owner must again provide the aforementioned written declaration.

In the case of young animals that accompany their mother and are still being suckled, no declaration from the owner is required if the mother can be proven to have been vaccinated against rabies before birth. Puppies up to 56 days old must be accompanied by their mother if they are to enter Switzerland.

Travelling to Spain with your dog

Travelling to Switzerland with your dog. Image: Tadeusz Lakota / Unsplash

Registration

Pets brought into Switzerland by air are checked at the red customs exit. Should the pet not meet the entry requirements, or the owner fail to provide the required documents, the animal will be taken to the border veterinary office in the freight area for an extensive examination. All resulting costs are the responsibility of the owner, so preparation is key!

When bringing your buddy into Switzerland by land via an EU country, it is necessary to register your pet with Swiss customs, and owners are advised to keep the receipts for proof and, if applicable, the payment of VAT.

As a dog owner you will further have to register your animal as well as yourself (as a dog owner) with the Swiss municipality that you reside in. Your veterinarian must additionally register your dog in Switzerland’s dog database (AMICUS) within 10 days of crossing the border.

Beware: It is prohibited to enter Switzerland with cropped or docked dogs (ears and/or tail). However, owners can consult with the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO ([email protected] or BLV, Postfach, 3003 Bern) regarding possible exceptions, such as short stays, other forms of holidays, or moving house.

After being taken over the border, it is prohibited to sell or hand over pets to new owners.

Dog Tax

While we’re on the topic of dogs, man’s best friend is taxed in Switzerland. The fees vary from canton to canton, with some charging a flat rate while others choose to tax according to your pet’s size and weight.

In 2011, the municipality of Reconvilier made headlines when it resurrected a law from 1904 that allowed the town to put down dogs if their owners didn’t pay the annual pet tax for their pooch. Luckily, this caused quite an uproar across the country and the law never saw the light of day. Still, taxes must be paid to this day. But on the flip side, poo bags are free! (Well, sort of…there’s a dog tax for that).

Dog Classes

On June 1st, 2022, Switzerland updated its dog law. The amended law sees that new dog owners who are looking to adopt a dog – whether it be a small or big breed – must take part in mandatory dog classes consisting of a two-hour course with an exam as well as a practical course comprising six lessons.

Everyone whose pooch crossed the border before May 31st is to adhere to the previous dog law, which dictates that puppies and young dogs take part in dog classes. Some adult large breed dogs must also be signed up. It is best to ask your local municipality for more details.

Swiss animal laws

Switzerland has some of the tightest animal welfare laws in the world and while this is great news for the animal world, it might mean that simply bringing along your single pet may go against the Swiss law.

If your furry friend happens to be a “social animal”, such as a guinea pig or parakeet, you will be required – by law! – to get your pet a friend for company. It is also essential to ensure that your pet’s cage is an appropriate size (I’m looking at you fish owners!).

For a comprehensive list on the Swiss import regulations for animals please CLICK HERE.

SHOW COMMENTS