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Are you healthier living in France?

What effect does moving to France have on your health?

20 January 2011

WHAT effect does moving to France have on your health? Swapping a stressful job in the UK for a gentler lifestyle in France might sound perfect, but has it had a noticeable effect on your well-being? Do you eat better and exercise more? Are you more relaxed? Or has quite the opposite happened: has France's food and wine led you astray? Has living here proved more stressful than you thought?

We asked Connexion newsletter readers for their thoughts. Here is a selection of your replies...

YES

I would certainly say my husband and I eat healthier, but we drink a lot more which maybe is not a good thing, but we feel OK. Husband works here in France so it has been stressful for both of us as he had to close his business due to a slump in the building business, but fortunately for us he found work working for the French.
John Hernon

We arrived here in the Auvergne three years ago and we have never felt healthier. We breathe fresh mountain air, eat better-tasting fresh food, drink moderate but regular quantities of wine, exercise as an everyday activity, be it walking the dog, chopping-up or collecting wood, playing golf, skiing, playing tennis for free or simply pottering about in our beautiful high valley. Stress...what is that exactly?
Bob Traylen and Gina Cunningham

Do I feel healthier living in France? Absolutely. I live in a land where the air is less poluted, where the health service is healthier. With my carte vitale I am protected and cared for. I am among sympathetic people and doctors who understand human beings. In fact it is so damn good I burnt my UK passport and became a French citizen just over a year ago.
Jane Allan

I definitely feel healthier since moving to France. I have 'acquired' a French partner and besides his affection which does wonders for the health and morale, it has also got me eating and drinking like the French. The French may eat copious meals but they take small portions. Many women of my generation don't drink alcohol which is a sobering thought. I live in the Vaucluse, in the south, and the absence of grey skies is the best medicine of all. Together with the beautiful countryside it encourages long walks.
Adrianne Mead

I worked as a holistic therapist in Scotland but had to retire early because I was constantly ill with asthma. I spent days and sometimes weeks in bed and about every three weeks I had to embark on a course of steroids to get my life back, only to be healthy for two or three weeks and then be ill again and end up on yet more steroids. Since we moved to France in December 2008, I haven't had one day in bed. I did have bronchitis last year but that was nothing compared to how my life had been in Scotland. I have no more exercise here than I had in Scotland, and being a vegan (shock horror for the French), the food has had no effect on me. I can give no explanation as to why I am more healthy in France, but every day I say a big thank you, because my life is so much better here in France than it was in Scotland.
Adrianne Mead

I had to stop work because of high blood pressure and the treatment I received in the UK was a regime based on the cheapest approach without regard to the individual or side effects. This regime did nothing for me other than give me more problems from side effects to which the local health trust responded that they could not tailor the treatment and would only use the drugs on their list. When I moved to France my doctor here took me off the treatment the UK prescribed and over a three-month period got my blood pressure under control, which the UK had failed to do in four years. Add to that the reduction in stress levels and I am now a much healthier happier person.
Malcolm Preston

I have had health problems recognised and treated that had existed since my childhood in New Zealand which had never been identified. I made this happen to a certain extent but doctors identified the reasons why I had certain problems and I was able to seek the right help (osteopathic) to put things to rights as much as possible. X-rays taken that had never been taken before in relation to accidents.
Faith Helsby

We came to live in France five years ago from the north east of England, partly because I had quite severe respiratory problems and was on twice daily anti-biotic inhalations plus other drugs. I also have diabetes and arthritis. Five years on, my chest is almost always clear - no more antibiotics - and my arthritis is not so painful. Alas, the good food and wine, plus wonderful hospitality we have experienced from friends means that my diabetes is a bit of a struggle and we have both put on weight. My husband has angina and back problems - both greatly improved by the relaxed lifestyle and warmer climate. On balance, it was absolutely the right move and any health problems get speedy and effective treatment from the excellent French health system. Just one thing - wish summer would hurry up.
Carole McKeown

Yes, I definitely feel healthier for having moved. I lived in a quite rural part of Surrey before and moved to the northern Dordogne nearly six years ago. I was already retired so was not too stressed but the extra sunshine here made a huge and lasting difference to my mood and gave me additional energy. And although I've had a very nasty coldy, fluey bug this week (like many others) the incidence of colds has gone down a lot as a result of the move. I'm delighted - and I'm very pleased with the healthcare system here. We are fortunate enough to have a two-GP practice in a commune of less than 1,000.
Roger Pearce

As an American who has lived in Normandy for 25 years, I have found living in France to be much more healthy than my life before in the USA. As an advertising executive, even though I carved out a lot of time to working out, it seemed such a chore. Eating for one was also easier in front of the TV or at the bar/pub at a happy hour event on Fridays/the weekends/all the time. In France, eating well is easier, with so many fruits and vegetables available everywhere, without take away pizzas at every gas/petrol station and ice cream, candy, chips and other fast foods not as easily available as in the USA. I have absolutely no regrets about living here.
Leisa Jean

When I lived in the UK I worked 60/65 hours a week and constantly had heart burn and indigestion, a box of 50 tablets every week, now I live in France and work in our B&B around 80 hours per week, and have not taken a tablet since moving here.
John Bennett

My husband, daughter and myself have been here for three years in March. I agree with most, that the quality of life and pace is far better than the UK, however, our first two years here have been two of the most stressful in our lives. I could have quite easily gone back home. Entry into the healthcare system stinks. Even if you are legitimately entitled to it, you have to fight tooth and nail to get it and when you have children involved, it's just not fair.
Clare Smith

NO

Since moving to France both my wife and my own health have deteriorated dramatically. I myself have had no less than five operations. My wife now suffers from blood pressure problems. We are both recently retired but are now faced with the problem of relocating because of the health issue. Some friends (age mid-thirties) also have found that their health has dramatically deteriorated.
P.Broom

France has definitely made me more unhealthy, I find the lack of variety in fruit and vegatables restrictive, and I lack inspiration for recipes since I struggle to buy most things I need. I grow my own vegetables, but only squash, courgette, sweetcorn, beans and potatoes. I miss pre-prepared vegetables/fresh noodles for stir fry etc. I used to walk at least 5-10 miles a day, but now need to use the car for most things as we are in a more rural location.
Nicola Powell

No I don't. Here's why. Prior to coming to the French countryside, in England and also Germany (where I also lived and worked for many years), I was accustomed to taking exercise by walking as much as possible. Here in my local area (I live in Charente) there are no parks or woods, the French cut the trees down for burning-wood. There seems to be no control, no restriction. Also, the French just burn their rubbish in their gardens at any and all times of the year, no consideration as to whether others have their washing on the line, maybe enjoying lunch or dinner outside on the terrace. They usually make sure that the fire is far enough away from their doors and windows by building it near to their neighbours' fence. And it's not only natural garden waste that they burn but even plastic, metal, rubber, old pieces of furniture, carpeting, lino, etc. Also, I must confirm that I ate better food in England and Germany.
Jill Stölting

I ended up so stressed living in France I had to leave. On the other hand I feel distinctly better/healthier since moving to Cyprus.
R Nicol

I came to France as a single woman of 57 and slim. In England I had enjoyed a naturally healthy diet, with wholemeal food easily available, vegetables and fish and a little meat and sweet treats. However, within two years of being in France I was diagnosed with above average cholesterol and blocked painful bowels. Too much rich charcuterie and cheese, white bread, croissants and pastries. I have resolved the problem now - I ignore white bread, eating lots of fruit and vegetable dishes at home, just a slither of mainly brebis and goats cheese and yoghurts for calcium, eat mainly wholemeal crispbread, sugar-free muesli from the health shops and porridge in winter, avoiding sweet French cereals and gateaux and white breads and fat rich local dishes - cassoulet, cheese and cream dishes. I have however noticed that the French seem to be unaware of gluten problems - perhaps because their white bread has no emulsifiers or agents which have caused so many women in England and US to be "allergic to bread". I still enjoy being here and have never regretted the move.
Jan Riordan

I have lived in France for the past eight years. My weight has increased by a kilo a year through too much cheese and not enough exercise. My blood pressure has risen to a figure necessitating medication due to trying to cope with French bureaucracy.
Maggie Stevens

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