Each year one in four UK residents experience a mental health problem.

Research among 250 multinational firms has highlighted increasing concern among employers that international assignments are failing because of assignees’ mental health problems.

More than two thirds (68 per cent) of multinational companies say they are concerned about international assignments failing due to mental health problems, with 21 per cent saying they are very concerned, according to new research from AXA-Global, the international health insurer.

Causes of failure for international assignments

Conducted among 250 multinational firms headquartered in eight different countries and 372 expatriate workers, the research revealed that 11 per cent of all international assignments fail due to personal reasons, compared to eight per cent that are terminated due to commercial reasons. The research found that the most common personal reasons for assignments failing are family concerns, (responsible for 54 per cent of assignments terminating for personal reasons) compared to 42 per cent terminating due to the employees own ill health and 28 per cent because staff found it difficult to adapt to life in the culture and country they were working in.According to the study, the stresses and strains of international working are increasing, more than two-in-five expatriate workers (43 per cent) say that hostility towards foreign workers has increased since they arrived in the country they are working in, with just 19 per cent saying it has diminished and 38 per cent saying it remains unchanged.

Increasing hostility among overseas assignments

More than eight-in-ten (82 per cent) staff working on international assignments in the USA said that attitudes towards foreign workers have become more hostile/unwelcoming, with more than half of ex-patriate workers in the UK (53 per cent), Singapore (54 per cent) and Hong Kong (56 per cent) reporting increased hostility since they arrived in the country.The result is also impacting employers with more than a quarter (27 per cent) of multi-national companies saying that concerns about staff security and safety are prompting them to send fewer people to work in other countries.

Tom Wilkinson, CEO of AXA-Global’s healthcare team, stated,

“Helping staff maintain good mental health and wellbeing should be as important as physical health for companies sending people to work on international assignment.“While working in another country can be tremendously exciting and rewarding, can help staff accelerate their careers, gain better pay and promotion prospects, it can also be challenging and isolating without the right support network and packages in place. “Ensuring that staff are prepared for the reality of life in another country – and that they have the appropriate health screening and care packages and language and cultural training – is key to ensure that more international assignments work for both employers and their staff.”





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.