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Winter is coming: How to stay happy and healthy

It's easy to enjoy the summer when living in Europe. Warm days and late sunsets allow plenty of time to socialise, exercise and enjoy yourself. The colder months, however, are a slightly different proposition.

Winter is coming: How to stay happy and healthy
A jog a day: Regular walking or jogging not only increases fitness, but reduces your chances of suffering from seasonal illnesses. Photo: Getty Images

Autumn and winter mean shorter days, colder nights and often a range of health challenges. Not only are seasonal colds and flu circulating, but low temperatures and light levels make it more difficult to keep in shape, and moods dip. 

Together with international health insurance broker ASN, we identify proven ways in which you can stay fit, healthy and happy as the year draws to a close. 

Cold, coughs and flus – oh my! 

Avoiding the cold and flus that come with the cold weather can be difficult, but there are some things that you can do to minimise the risk, that go beyond washing your hands or wearing a mask. 

Clinical studies across the globe have demonstrated that regularly taking vitamin C, echinacea and (most importantly) zinc may boost the immune system’s defences, and in some cases prevent illness. 

For those with health issues such as hypertension, pre-existing respiratory or heart disease, seasonal viruses can be devastating. In these cases, doctors recommend a yearly flu vaccine. These protect against the yearly dominant strains and can vastly reduce the severity of illness, should you get sick. 

As Giovanni Bretti from ASN Customer Care tells us, “The good thing about international health insurance is that you can include or exclude benefits such as vaccinations and specialised respiratory care, tailored to your needs.”

Avoid worry and gloom this winter – get a quote on your international health insurance from ASN

Ski, skate, cycle or spin

Of course, we know that you can minimise your odds of getting seriously ill by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a good level of fitness – but how do you keep that up when it’s dark and cold outside? 

Majuran Panchalingam, an International Insurance Consultant from ASN shares some tips: “When it starts to get cold outside, I mainly train indoors. Furthermore, I make everything ready the evening before. Skipping training becomes more difficult when I have already packed my training things.”

Also, something as simple as installing a free pedometer on your smartphone can help. Studies demonstrated it can increase average daily physical exercise by around 20 percent.

For those with a competitive streak, depending on which app you choose, you can receive detailed analysis on your walks or runs, including distance, speed and elevation.

An increasing number of apps also allow you to virtually ‘walk’ a set distance, such as the length of the Great Wall of China. Some even award a real medal or certificate upon completion. 

Regular exercise can also help prevent injury to muscles and joints but should you get hurt in an accident, such as slipping on an icy pavement, it’s important to seek medical assistance and specialised help as soon as you can. Some health insurance policies, like those arranged by ASN, will even give you free access to physiotherapists and other physical specialists. 

By dealing with problems as they occur, you can not only avoid more invasive treatment and possible mobility issues but also save on healthcare costs. Who doesn’t want that? 

ASN gives you peace of mind in the colder months by finding you the best offers on international health insurance 

Autumn splendour: Taking advantage of cool, dry weather to get outside and socialise with friends is an important part of staying healthy. Photo: Getty Images

Get out of the gloom 

The colder months don’t just impact physical health – they can have a remarkable effect on mental health as well. 

This is for a complex range of reasons. Some scientists have linked shorter days and longer nights to decreased serotonin production in the brain, while others have suggested it provokes changes in our circadian rhythms – our routines of wakefulness and sleep. Rather than be social and get out, we just want to sleep. 

What has been shown to work are two things: getting outside during the daylight hours, and the regular use of a sun lamp, available in many shops. Both can have the effect of fooling the brain into proceeding as normal, and avoiding a low mood. 

Internationals are especially susceptible to poorer mental health in the colder months, as they might find themselves isolated while those around them are celebrating the holiday season. It’s important to stay connected and socialise when possible. Many forums and websites for internationals regularly hold events to facilitate social interaction and this can be a great way to stay connected and make new friends.

If you do find yourself experiencing a persistent low mood, speaking to someone about the challenges you’re facing and receiving the proper support can help. 

Mental health therapies are usually covered in standard international health insurance plans. If you are working with a broker, such as ASN, they will do their best to support customers in their preferred language to find out what is covered and what kind of possibilities there are to find peace of mind again.

The best investment in your health

One of the best things an international living abroad can do to safeguard their health throughout the year, and especially in the darker months, is to consider an international health insurance policy. 

Such policies, like those brokered by ASN, give 24-7 access to a global network of doctors, specialists and other healthcare professionals who can provide the personal care you need, when you need it. Not only that, but if you need to be transported to your home country for specialised care, this may be covered by an international health insurance policy. 

These policies often also include coverage for preventative care, to help you avoid illness and mitigate conditions before they become chronic. 

Just as consistent exercise, taking advantage of social activities, and getting yearly flu shots are investments in your health through autumn and winter, an international health insurance policy can ensure you can make the most of your life abroad. 

Take comprehensive control of your health this winter with a quote on international health insurance through ASN  

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HEALTH

How much will I have to pay to go to the dentist in Sweden?

Dental care in Sweden is under a seperate system to most other healthcare, meaning costs can quickly mount up if you need a lot of treatment. How are costs calculated, and are there any subsidies?

How much will I have to pay to go to the dentist in Sweden?

Free for under-23s

Dental care is completely free for children and young adults under the age of 23. For older adults, prices for check-ups and treatment can vary between clinics, so it is a good idea to look at price lists in advance and compare them, especially if you need a lot of work done.

You usually pay per check-up, but people who are registered with Försäkringskassan get a dental subsidy each year to use towards dental care, and there is also a high cost ceiling to keep your costs low if you need a lot of care.

How much does the dental subsidy cover?

The basic subsidy is known as allmän tandvårdsbidrag (ATB), and the amount you get depends on your age. You get:

  • 600 kronor per year if aged between 24 and 29, or over 65,
  • 300 kronor per year if aged between 30 and 64.

This subsidy renews every year on July 1st, and you can save it for up to a year – so if you still haven’t used the previous years’ subsidy by July 1st, you can use two years’ subsidies at once. If you already have two subsidies when the next years’ is granted on July 1st, you won’t get a new one.

There’s also a särskilt tåndvårdsbidrag (STB) or “special dental subsidy” available to certain individuals who have an illness or disability which makes them more likely to need dental care, such as people on dialysis treatment, people who have had organ transplants or those with certain types of diabetes.

STB consists of 600 kronor every six months, paid out on January 1st and July 1st every year.

High-cost protection

Sweden also provides högkostnadsskydd or “high-cost protection”, to help you cover the costs if you need expensive dental treatment.

High-cost protection doesn’t cover all types of dental treatment, but will usually cover the cheapest possible treatment for your situation. It may, for example, cover the cost of a dental bridge, but not an implant.

You also can’t use it for cosmetic dentistry, such as teeth whitening.

Dentistry as part of a medical treatment isn’t covered either, as that falls under the standard healthcare rules, meaning you will pay your region’s standard patient fee with it’s separate high-cost protection instead.

How much does high-cost protection cover?

You pay the full cost of all dental treatment in the same 12-month period up to a limit of 3,000 kronor. This is based on national reference prices, or your dentist or dental hygienist’s prices if they are lower. If your dentist charges more than the national reference price for the treatment in question, you will have to pay the difference yourself.

If your dental treatment over the course of a 12-month period costs more than 3,000 kronor, Försäkringskassan (the Social Insurance Agency), will cover:

  • 50 percent of all costs over 3,000 kronor, and
  • 85 percent of all costs over 15,000 kronor.

For example, let’s say you have a dental bill of 20,000 kronor for treatment within the same 12 month period, and your dentist charges the national reference price.

You pay the first 3,000 kronor yourself. You pay 50 percent of everything between 3,000 and 15,000 kronor (so, 6,000 kronor), then 15 percent of the last 5,000 kronor (so, 750 kronor), as that’s over the 15,000 kronor cap.

This means that, on a 20,000 kronor bill, you end up paying 9,750 kronor (3,000 + 6,000 + 750), meaning Försäkringskassan covered 10,250 kronor of your 20,000 kronor bill.

Frisktandvård

If you visit the public dentist, you can also choose an option called frisktandvård which is a kind of dental insurance. You pay a certain amount of money each month (based on your age and the condition of your teeth, but starting as low as 90 kronor in some regions) and in return, your check-ups and many treatments are available at no extra cost.

This only applies if you have no pre-existing conditions – you’ll need to visit a dentist for them to assess your teeth and decide if you qualify.

Who qualifies?

To be able to use these subsidies, you need to be registered with Försäkringskassan.

Some people, especially those moving to Sweden with children, should be contacted by Försäkringskassan as soon as they are registered with the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket), but in many cases, it is up to you to actively register with them. That’s important: unlike healthcare, simply having a personnummer is not enough to receive subsidies and high cost protection for dental care, and the process of becoming registered with the agency can take several months, so you should do it as soon as possible after your move.

What if I don’t have a personnummer?

If you’re new or just visiting Sweden, you may be liable to pay higher costs for dental care, including if you are under 23.

If you’re just visiting, or are newly arrived and have not yet become registered as a resident, as a non-EU citizen you should take out medical and dental insurance that covers you while you are in Sweden. Citizens of EU/EEA countries and Switzerland should be able to receive dental care at the same cost as Swedish citizens if it’s an emergency, as long as you’re insured in your home country – make sure you bring your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and show the dentist. If you don’t have the card, you should save your receipts as it may still be possible to apply for reimbursement in your home country afterwards.

Remember, it isn’t only having a personnummer that entitles you to dental subsidies, but actively registering with Försäkringskassan.

If you are living in Sweden long-term but have a coordination number (samordningsnummer) rather than a personnummer, you may well not be eligible for insurance with Försäkringskassan, so you should arrange your own dental insurance or be prepared to pay the full cost upfront.

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