"I am healthier in Beijing than my home country": Agree or Disagree? Survey Says…

I’ve closed the results for my Health Snapshot Beijing 2010, and the results are in. Many thanks to the 75 readers who filled out the form! Let’s go straight to the results.

Question 1: How Long Have You Lived in Beijing?

This wasn’t too surprising; about 50% have been in Beijing for under 3 years. One in four are long-termers, having lived here over 5 years. It confirms what I see in clinic all the time; a massive turnover of expats, which you would expect with most expats here on limited yearly work contracts. Still, it’s comforting that 25% have really settled down here and made this their new long-term home.

Question 2: What’s Your Native Country?

The top country was the US, with 38%, followed by Australia with 10%, then a group of European countries, followed by a smattering of others — for a total of 21 countries reported.

OK, let’s get to the more interesting questions:

Question 3: “I am healthier in Beijing than my home country”: do you agree or not?

I wasn’t too sure what to expect with this question; I recently wrote a lot about what I call “expatitis”, as I felt that I saw more ill health among my patients than I had thought I’d see. I was hoping that my viewpoint may be a bit too skewed, but the survey results showed a strong trend that most responders indeed felt more unhealthy here. It wasn’t even close: 64% felt less healthy in Beijing, while only 19% felt more healthy here. In fact, 24% strongly felt unhealthier here. This question was very polarizing, as only 18% were neutral.

So, more than half of responders felt more unhealthy here in Beijing. This brings up the next obvious question: why do they feel more unhealthy? What are the main causes of this? Is it environmental, or personal, or work-related? The follow-up questions help to address this, but honestly this is such a surprisingly large response that it deserves a future, more comprehensive survey to delve deeper.


Question 4: “My mental health (stress, depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc) is better here in Beijing when compared to my home country”: do you agree or not?

The overall mental health picture wasn’t nearly as bad as the previous question’s negative findings. Only 41% of responders felt their mental status was worse here in Beijing, while 26% felt better mental health. A large proportion (36%) were neutral. Therefore, a majority (61%) were neutral or positive about their mental health while here in Beijing. I find this to be encouraging news as I had expected worse numbers.

But, that 41% is still a big percentage of responders who feel worse living here, which of course makes their overall expat experience far tougher…

A Short Disclaimer (AKA The Fine Print…)

I will be reviewing the remaining answers in other posts, but firstly I should explain that readers shouldn’t read too deeply into this survey, as it is far from a scientifically rigorous study. Firstly, I doubt it’s a very accurate sample of the actual expat population, as only readers of this blog and a couple other internet groups knew about the survey. And of course, being written in English, it excludes all those expats who don’t read English. In public health statistical terms, the sampling was not randomized so the results can’t be assumed to speak too accurately for the 170,000 reported Beijing expats. Plus, the sample size of 75 is too small to really get an accurate margin of error (11.3%, when a much more ideal margin of 5% would require at least 384 responses).

Having said all that, I still think it’s a good start and does help answer some basic questions I had about Beijingers’ health perceptions. And it definitely gives me a lot of leads for a more comprehensive follow-up survey. As always, I welcome your feedback in the comments section below.

Next Post: Expat Clinics and Local Clinics: Which Are Better?

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