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NatWest IPB Quality of Life Report

British expats lead the way in UK’s digital footprint among over 50s

  • Online junkies: The majority of British expats aged 55+ (74%) are online for at least seven hours a week
  • Social surfers: Almost seven in ten (67%) expat ‘silver surfers’ use social networks to bridge the gap with far-off loved ones
  • Smart move: Three out of four older expats (72%) now own a smartphone

Three out of four British expats aged 55 and over (74%) are regular online junkies(The ‘Quality of Life’ study was carried out for NatWest International Personal Banking by the Centre for Future Studies between May and June 2014 among 1804 British expats), according to findings from the seventh annual NatWest International Personal Banking (IPB) Quality of Life Index.

The study, conducted by the Centre for Future Studies, suggests that expat ‘silver surfers’ are racing ahead of their British-based peers when it comes to being technology savvy. Almost three in ten (28%) over 65s based in the UK have never used the internet(ONS -Internet Access - Households and Individuals, 2014) and 53% do not have the ‘basic online skills’ necessary to use the web without assistance(Ipsos Mori – BBC Digital Capabilities Update, 2014). Meanwhile, in an effort to maintain their global connections, older expats are making full use of the technology available to them.

The vast majority of expat ‘silver surfers’ who use social media (78%) do so in an effort to stay in touch with UK family, friends, and particularly to keep up with grandchildren. Almost two thirds (63%) also use social media to help them connect to other expats, as part of a growing digital community.

Dave Isley, Head of NatWest International Personal Banking comments:

It’s fair to say the internet has had an incredible impact on the life of your average British expat, since our Quality of Life Index began seven years ago. Being separated from home comforts and family and friends, has clearly motivated older expats to adapt to a new way of communicating, as they are forced to embrace new forms of technology at a faster rate than their British-based counterparts.

The Quality of Life Index reveals two thirds of expat ‘silver surfers’ (67%) use the internet to access social networks, with Facebook being the most popular site used by this group. More than half of expat silvers surfers (59%) are using the internet to access entertainment and a further 47% manage their healthcare services online.

Expat over 55’s: Break down of internet use

Use %
Social networks 67%
Entertainment 59%
Healthcare 47%
Shopping 45%
Banking 41%
Weather forecasts 34%

It's inevitable that we'll continue to see an increase in the technological capabilities of the over 50s in the expat community. Mobile technology has become a vital tool for British expats on the move, enabling them to access some of their home comforts when they need to.

Data according to Centre of Future Studies

NatWest IPB Quality of Life Report

Case Studies Available on Request

The ‘Quality of Life’ study rated expats’ lives abroad based on assessments of lifestyle indicators such as availability of consumer goods, entertainment, food, law enforcement, public transport, sanitation, housing, public services, leisure and culture, schools and education, financial confidence, healthcare provision, retirement facilities, weather, financial factors and the natural environment.

Respondents to the 2014 Index were emailed invitations to participate and respondents were also recruited through notices on expat websites. Based on the responses obtained, the 2014 Quality of Life Index’ was prepared. The survey was conducted at, the online research arm of the Centre for Future Studies which identifies and measures attitudes, beliefs, behaviours and opinions among consumers.

A separate survey was undertaken among British expats living in retirement to explore their perceived quality of life; their lifestyles; their health and financial well being; and expectations for the future.

Unless referenced all statistics are from the survey.

NatWest IPB Quality of Life Report

Further Information

For further information please contact:
Lisa Grando, Lansons, 0207 294 3669 or
Lewis Wilks, Lansons, 0207 566 9702 or

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