Life in Europe Is Boosting Young Americans’ Mental and Physical Health

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  • Some young American workers are moving to Europe in hopes of a healthier and happier life.
  • A workplace psychologist told Insider certain policies allowed them to meet these goals in Europe.
  • Work-life balance, healthier living, and less focus on productivity are helping some young workers.

Kayleigh Donahue, an American, shared a TikTok documenting her transition from crying in her car to a rom-com-style montage of her biking through the European countryside, sitting in front of a castle, and jumping off a boat.

“Pov: you leave America and move to Europe… and finally learn to breathe and appreciate the small pleasures in life again,” the caption read.

With 1 million views and some 90,000 likes, Donahue’s message seems to be resonating.

In the five years she’s lived overseas, Donahue, 27, became one of numerous young Americans more interested in a life of balance in Europe than the corporate grind in America.

“In Europe, you are a person first and a worker second,” Donahue told Insider.

She said that her lifestyle drastically improved her health and happiness.

While some of it can be chalked up to personal preferences, there might be some merit to her belief that life in Europe makes people happier and healthier, said Davina Ramkissoon, a workplace psychologist who lives in Ireland.

Ramkissoon has watched a number of workers move from North America to Europe for work.

“One of the things that’s always stuck out is they say their quality of life has improved since moving,” she said.

European life is grounded in balance

In a 2023 Forbes analysis of the top 10 cities for work-life balance, nine of them were in Europe.

“There is a sense that what is available for us in terms of working conditions in the EU is more favorable,” Ramkissoon said.

For example, the European Union mandates that all employees have a minimum of four weeks of paid vacation, with 12 paid public holidays on top of that.

That’s a stark contrast from Americans, who took an average of 11 vacation days in 2022, Expedia found.

Europeans are unapologetic about taking time away from work, Ramkissoon said: “They’re going, ‘This is my time. Do not contact me.'”

Governments in Europe also often support measures that encourage time away from work, such as Ireland’s “right-to-disconnect” policy and a work-life-balance policy introduced this week for parents and caregivers, Ramkissoon said.

“We’re seeing a shift towards assessing and managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace, which contributes towards workplace stress and mental-health outcomes,” she added.

Donahue in Paris, France

Donahue took advantage of her vacation and time-off policies to travel the continent.

courtesy of Donahue

Donahue, who moved to Dublin in 2018, had 29 annual vacation days available at her job as a social worker. She used many of those days to travel to places including Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Sure, flights from country to country are cheaper in Europe, but she was also afforded her managers’ encouragement to go.

“Work-life balance in the US is just nonexistent to me after experiencing work-life balance in Europe,” she said. “My work supported me in doing so; they encouraged you to take time off,” she added.

A healthy lifestyle is more accessible

Sofi Torres-Kennedy in France

Sofi Torres-Kennedy lives outside Bordeaux, France.

courtesy of Kennedy

Living in Europe also improved the physical health of both Donahue and Sofi Torres-Kennedy, a 24-year-old living outside Bordeaux, France, they said.

Torres-Kennedy said that’s partly because she didn’t have everything at her fingertips, so she had to work for what she wanted.

“There’s still Uber Eats here, but it’s just not as used,” she said.

Since living abroad, she’s noticed how obsessed Americans seem to be with instant gratification: “When you want something, you expect to get it immediately in the US. I feel like people here are kind of slower. They wait. They have more patience. “

Donahue said an active lifestyle and healthy food contributed to her improved physical health, too.

“The infrastructure in Europe allows you to walk everywhere, so I found myself walking a ton. I would bike to work,” she said.

And high-quality meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables were much more accessible and affordable in Europe, Donahue said, adding that they’re more common than the junk food she saw so widely available in the US.

“The lifestyle was just so much healthier,” she said. “It changed my life for the better.”