With proactive self-care now an integral part of the expatriate lifestyle, interviewees noted a desire for more holistic benefits that support both their mental and physical needs and well-being, alongside clinician-led treatments. More than half (52%) said it was more important now to have tailored benefits with wellness elements than before the pandemic.

This demonstrates a desire for more flexibility and choice. Allowing individuals to select the wellness benefits that suit their needs and lifestyle signals a shift towards a more holistic approach to health care. The interest in having a greater choice of welfare benefits under an employer health care program further suggests a growing desire on the part of the employer and the employee to break taboos on stress management in the workplace and create an open discussion forum on employee mental health.

Additionally, Aetna’s latest survey found that a quarter (25%) of expats believed counseling and therapy sessions should be included in the package. Overall, this was the biggest endorsement for any wellness offer respondents were asked about.

Growing recognition of mental health

Among the markets studied, counseling and therapy were at the top of the list of inclusions in the United States and Singapore, second in the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates, and fourth in Hong Kong. These findings underscore a growing global recognition of the importance of mental health. Fitness sessions and apps, life coaching, and yoga and meditation sessions round out the top inclusions sought by respondents. Mindfulness app subscriptions followed closely at six on the list, showing an overall appetite for a more integrated healthy lifestyle offering.

Dr Hemal Desai, Global Medical Director of Aetna International, said: “People are increasingly aware of all areas of their health. They understand that a healthy lifestyle is about more than exercising and eating well, and that everyone is different.

“Mental health is clearly more and more focused and more and more people are learning to manage it. There are many tools available to help a person with everything from mindfulness and sleep to stress relief and alleviation. We’re also finding that convenient access to these tools included in an employer’s benefit package appears to be a growing priority for busy expats.

Interestingly, 40 percent of expats surveyed ranked a health care benefit package as the most important consideration for a job posting, compared to 52 percent who reported salary. While it’s no surprise that salary wins, the gap between health and wealth is narrower than one might expect.

Another recent study showed that more than a third of the expatriate workforce (37%) are more likely to relocate to their home country since Covid-19.