Two-thirds of people surveyed told pollsters that they wanted to experience new things abroad, compared with less than half who said they were hoping to earn more money outside Germany.
Expats “often achieve a higher income and have a higher job status, but they experience a kind of social disintegration through the loss of friends and acquaintances,” Norbert Schneider, head of the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB) said at a Berlin press conference on Tuesday.
While 41.4 percent of the respondents said that they were moving because they were unhappy with their life in Germany, almost the same number – 40.4 percent – said they were unhappy once living abroad.
A large minority of 43.5 percent said that their decision to move had had negative effects on their friendships.
And just one in three said they were planning to stay abroad long-term, with most citing family reasons as an important part of the decision to return home.
But in recent years there have been much larger numbers of expats departing Germany than returning, with 710,000 leaving and 580,000 returning between 2009 and 2013.
Around 70 percent of expats were graduates – a much higher figure than among the general population, although the study authors say that there is “no evidence that highly qualified people are being 'drained' abroad in large numbers”.