Professionals quit 'materialistic' UK for life overseas

Hundreds of professionals are fleeing the country for a simpler life overseas to escape Britain's materialistic, stress-and-spend culture.

Hundreds of professionals are fleeing the country for a simpler life overseas to escape Britain's materialistic, stress-and-spend culture.

Lois Wolfe, 34, who works as a strategic adviser to the media industry in central London, is typical of the new expatriates. She is leaving in June for two years in Namibia. "I am not doing it for altruistic reasons, more for what I can get out of it," she said. "I live a very comfortable life in Britain but want to find out what is really important to me."

Independent research, published today, shows that nine out of 10 people think the country has become more materialistic. The findings, based on interviews with more than 700 people aged 25 to 40, show that nearly seven out of 10 do notbelieve people are happier as a result of being wealthier.

Official figures show that, compared with 1950, the average person in Britain is wealthier but 10 times more likely to be depressed, 40 times more prone to violence and more likely to suffer from alcoholism and drug abuse.

Voluntary Service Overseas, a charity that recruits skilled Britons to help governments and organisations in developing countries, commissioned the study because it has seen a 61 per cent rise in applications from professional people in the past six months.

Oliver James, a clinical psychologist and author of Britain on the Couch, said: "This extraordinary increase in applications among those advanced capitalists who should be the most satisfied of all, the banker and the industrial whiz-kids, provides yet more evidence that our whole system is based on a false premise: getting richer as a nation or individualwill make us happier or more fulfilled.

In the short term, advanced capitalism is brilliant at giving us quick fixes of consumerism, from chocolate bars to ecstasy tablets and hi-tech toys. Yet in exchange for these gains we pay an unacceptable price in emotional ill-being and mental illness."

The study showed that one in 10 people, rising to one in five women, seeks solace from their stressful lives in shopping. Meanwhile, one in three turns to drink. More than eight out of 10 people believed they were under too much pressure to spend money on things they didn't need.

The researchers found that high-achieving, high-earning applicants to VSO were seeking to find a more rewarding use of their professional skills and the opportunity to have some space, time and distance to re-assess their priorities.

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