MediCare identifies most common expat health problems

Traveling can make many common health conditions worse.

MediCare International released a statement detailing the most common health problems reported by its expat clients, finding “everyday” ailments such as back problems and hypertension far outweighed cases of serious diseases and emergencies.

The health insurer looked at the top claims from the past two years to determine which were the most common.

The top three were:

  • Back problems. On average four of five people worldwide will experience back pain in their lifetime. It’s most common in people between 35-55 years old. Carrying heavy objects (such as luggage), taking long flights and sleeping arrangements that are occasionally less-than-ideal are all risk factors relevant to expats.
  • Respiratory infections. These include common diseases such as the flu. Expats and international travelers often lack immunity to the strains prevalent in foreign countries. Air pollution can also play a significant role in causing respiratory infections.
  • Stomach ailments. As with the above, a lack of natural immunity plays a big role in rendering expats vulnerable to food poisoning and dysentery. In some countries low food health quality also contributes.

Other common claims included asthma, cancer, hypertension, knee problems and skin conditions such as eczema. Many of these, particularly hypertension and eczema, are stress-related and can be made worse as expats struggle to negotiate life abroad.

David Pryor, Senior Executive Director of MediCare, said:

People often associate private healthcare with medical emergencies. The truth is, the most common conditions reflect everyday living difficulties which can be exacerbated whilst abroad.

What is striking, though, is the proportion of these complaints which have a chronic aspect to them–back pain, cancer, respiratory problems, skin complaints–all of these can require ongoing treatment.

An increasing number of international health insurers, including MediCare, offer plans designed for expats with chronic conditions. Unfortunately, these policyholders will nearly always pay much higher premiums.

Companies discussed in this post

Medicare International is a division of LONMAR Global Risks, an independent Lloyd’s broker. It is known for innovative products (MediCare was one of the first health insurers to offer expatriates chronic illness cover and warzone insurance) and quick turnaround on its claims. The company usually settles agreed medical claims within two days. MediCare has clients of more than 86 nationalities living in 114 countries.