Survey highlights risks of foreign holidays

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 20 May 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1287

Holidays abroad are becoming increasingly risky, with 15% of British holidaymakers falling ill, says a new survey from the Consumers' Association. The survey, of 16000 people who had travelled abroad during the previous 18 months, also found that the proportion of those injured on holiday had doubled in the past four years to 5%.

The relative risks posed by individual countries varied widely, according to the survey. Visitors to India stand the greatest chance of falling ill (60%), while just over half of the holidaymakers going to Egypt and Morocco become ill. The risk of illness is also high in the Gambia, Tunisia, Kenya, Turkey, and Indonesia. Most illnesses contracted during holidays abroad, however, were found to be minor complaints such as stomach upset, the effects of excess heat, and ear infection.

The survey was conducted among readers of the association's magazine Holiday Which? It also examined the incidence of theft and mugging among foreign holiday-makers and found that some of the most violent destinations were recently liberalised parts of eastern Europe like Hungary and Poland. South Africa also emerged as a risky place for crime, with 5% of those who had been there claiming that they had been mugged during the holiday.

The proportion of those surveyed who had been injured while on holiday had more than doubled since the association's last survey four years ago. A total of 5%, or 736 people, had suffered some form of injury, mostly minor.

Among visitors to New Zealand, 11% became “accidental tourists,” while accident rates were also higher in Poland, China, Australia, and Kenya than in most other countries. The most common cause of injury reported in the survey was “falls on land,” followed by water sports, animal bites, and other sports injuries.

A total of 377 respondents (2%) had had something stolen while on holiday. The report's author, Kim Winter, said: “Perhaps the most surprising thing about this year's survey is the emergence of some eastern European countries as having high rates of mugging and theft.”—CLAUDIA COURT, BMJ

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