University of Sussex Media Release.
. No regrets for pensioners who head for the sun

20 July 2000
For immediate release

The picture of British pensioners retiring abroad and then living in poverty, with poor health in their twilight years, is far from the truth, a new book reveals.

Most of those who emigrate to sunnier climes in Southern Europe go on to lead full and interesting lives, with few or no regrets, says Prof Russell King, a migration expert at the University of Sussex and co-author of Sunset Lives, British Retirement Migration to the Mediterranean (just published by Berg, £14.99).

Prof King, together with Tony Warnes of the University of Sheffield and Allan Williams at the University of Exeter, interviewed 220 British nationals who had retired to Malta, Tuscany in Italy, the Algarve in Portugal and the Costa del Sol in Spain. These destinations are among the most popular for the ever-increasing exodus of UK pensioners.

The findings disprove media stories of a few years ago that retirement abroad had not lived up to people's expectations. "The positive images far out-weighed the negative," says Prof King. "The happiest were those who had extensive experience of travelling and living abroad. Only those who had a starry-eyed view of what it would be like, based on a few short holidays, found the new life more difficult."

People who had settled in the Costa del Sol reported the highest levels of well-being associated with climate, active lifestyle, high ratings of hospital services and good travel connections to the UK. In terms of integrating with the local culture, those who moved to Tuscany did better than those who chose to stay in the British enclaves in Spain, Portugal and Malta.

The "new Tuscans" were also more likely to be multilingual and to have worked in teaching, the arts and the media, while the Costa del Sol had a high representation of retired lawyers, medics and accountants. Malta had a significant number of retirees from manual backgrounds.

In response to an open question to name personal advantages of living abroad, a third of respondents reported that the pace of life was healthier or more appropriate than Britain, 11 per cent explicitly said they were or felt healthier, a quarter mentioned financial advantages and nearly half found the cost of living lower than in the UK. "This is an impressively positive audit of the decision to live abroad," says Prof King.

Notes for editors

For further information please contact Prof Russell King, tel. 01273 678744 (work), 01273 401013 (home), or Jacqui Bealing, Press Officer, University of Sussex, tel. 01273 678888, fax 01273 877456, email

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