The majority of British expats working abroad believe they have a better quality of life with higher salaries, more leisure time and less stress, according to a new global survey.

Only 19% of expats say they will return to the UK compared to 26% in 2008 and 89% believe they enjoy a better quality of life abroad according to the third annual NatWest International Personal Banking (NatWest IPB) Quality of Life Report. Some 90% say they are financially secure and expat salaries are on average 20% higher. Working hours are far less intensive and expats say they manage to achieve a better work/ life balance with much more leisure time, the research also shows.

The feel good factor is further reinforced as the vast majority of expats sampled over the past three years have achieved their ambition of a better quality of life and their experience has far exceeded their expectations.

'The number of expats saying they will return to the UK at some point in the future has declined from 26% in 2008 to 19% in 2010.

'The fact that fewer expats say they will return to the UK in the future, compared to three years ago, proves that the pace of life, work life balance and earning potential abroad means life as an expat is sunnier in more ways than one and that they are weathering the financial storm,' said Dave Isley, Head of NatWest International Personal Banking.

Professional expats can earn significantly more than their peers back home. On average, an expat professional's salary is up to £20,000 higher than their UK counterparts with 92% reporting a salary increase over the past three years with an average increase of 13%). The highest reported average salary increase was 19% in Hong Kong, 17%n in the United Arab Emirates and 14% in Spain.

The majority of expats said that their top achievement when living oversees was building a successful career and 88% rated their future career prospects as being either excellent or good.

More than a quarter of expats, 27% think of themselves as either very well off financially or quite well off and 63% declared themselves comfortable with their financial position.

The majority, 59%, of expats are confident they will be better off financially in five years time. However, those in Western Europe and the US are less confident.

But, quality of life isn't all about money with the countries with the highest reported earnings -- Singapore, UAE, China and Hong Kong - ranked at the bottom of the quality of life index. Only  small percentage of expats intend to retire in these countries and most intend to return to the UK.

The natural environment, climate, and culture and leisure are the three top reasons for moving abroad, followed by healthcare, education and financial security, the study also found.

'The dream shared by many Brits of living a happy life abroad is alive and kicking, despite the global economic factors which have to some extent affected British expats. British expats have built their lives abroad on solid foundations with the climate, culture and leisure, healthcare and education all deemed more important than financial security or financial well being for them,' added Isley.