University of  Sussex MEDIA RELEASE

The Information Office, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RH.

16th September l998 For immediate release


The popular image of elderly pensioners struggling to live in foreign climes is dispelled by new research into the experiences of Britain's older people who have gone to live in Southern Europe. Britain's older people who have emigrated to the sun are generally happy with their situation and determined to stay.

The three year research project, International Retirement Migration from the UK to Southern Europe, was undertaken by Professor Russell King at the University of Sussex who, with fellow researchers from Sheffield and Exeter sought a deeper understanding of a migration pattern which is increasingly popular but has been little studied. The researchers predict "steady growth" of migrants from other North European countries as well as Britain to the Mediterranean.

The project focused on four 'retirement' locatons in the sun: Malta, Tuscany, the Costa del Sol in Southern Spain and the Algarve in the south of Portugal. Detailed questionnaires were completed by more than a thousand people who had migrated to these areas, and these were followed up by l80 in-depth interviews. Local people, such as British consular staff, doctors, clergy, estate agents were also interviewed.

These revealed that the migrants have much in common, but there are also growing differences between them. Most are materially well-off and well-educated, having been managers, civil servants and educators. But the social base in broader than in the l960s and l970s. Tuscany was the first of the locations to pull in the British in search of a retirement home, and still attracts the highest social status migrants. But differences of social group within each area emphasises the growing lack of uniformity. The favoured environments also vary, between the coast and the interior, between 'expatriate enclaves' and full assimilation with the local way of life.

Malta has more elderly migrants who were manual workers, partly because of the Royal Navy's past involvement in the dockyards and partly beause of a strong representation of Anglo-Maltese families formed in Britain. The main reasons given for going to these places are remarkably similar, however, Climate and a relaxed lifestyle are the major attractions. Low cost of living, culture and scenery and family connections are other factors.

Not every aspect of the new retirement is positive, however, Many complaints about bureaucracy surfaced, although most, perhaps surprisingly, had fairly good things to say about health services. But the demands on such services as the migrants get older and more frail will be a major consideration which the authors hope that health and other service providers will address as a result of this research. Questions about citizenship and rights also need to be answered. While freedom of movement and property purchase are guaranteed within the European Union, the expected growth in migration to the sun raises specific concerns about development patterns in certain favoured areas of Europe.

For further information contact Professor Russell King, tel. 01273 678744 OR Sue Yates, Information Officer, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678384, Fax 01273 678335, email

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