FRAZZLED treechangers are disappointed by the stress of rural life and not being made welcome by the locals.
A majority of those who moved from Sydney to the bush faced more negatives than positives in their move, a new study has found.
And about 90 per cent of them are so disenchanted they plan to move on - to another town, the coast or back to the city - within five years.
Many said they felt "deeply disappointed" at the cool greeting they received, said study leader Angela Ragusa, a sociologist at Bathurst's Charles Sturt University.
"About 50pc felt they didn't fit into the community, that there was a sense they had to have several generations born and buried in the area to be a local.
"They didn't know how to connect with locals and some didn't try, they didn't know where to start - so they moved out or stayed in their new house and then felt isolated.
"Many would like to move back to the city, but can no longer afford it and become quite disgruntled about that."
Dr Ragusa said city residents had to cope with poor health care, poor road quality, fewer work opportunities, expensive food, lack of entertainment, obesity, lack of ethnic diversity, difficulty making friends, conservatism and narrow-mindedness.
She interviewed 50 treechangers in NSW and north-eastern Victoria and found many had a romantic and optimistic view that life in the country offered a better lifestyle than metropolitan Australia.
"These people didn't do enough research before they moved," she said.
Only 2pc researched their new locale before moving from the city. Many subsequently discovered living costs were higher than expected, complaining of a lack of cheap rental housing, overpriced properties and expensive food and petrol.
Monash University Centre for Population and Urban Research director Bob Birrell said the economic downturn will force people to keep fleeing Sydney in search of a better lifestyle.
He said Sydney has had a net exodus of more than 20,000 people a year. Yet, Dr Birrell said, while the treechange phenomenon is a "nice aspiration", it is impractical for people who need to find employment.
Retired treechangers were more able to find contentment with country life than people who were still trying to work, Dr Ragusa said.
"People who still wanted career progression were particularly disappointed by their treechange. Those that didn't want to climb the career ladder were more likely to be happy," she said.
In Dungog, 2½ hours north of Sydney, McElwaine Property principal Natasha McElwaine said 90pc of buyers were from the city and wanted to find a weekend retreat or permanent home surrounded by space and a rural lifestyle.
"Once upon a time, our buyers wanted 1000 acres, but then they realised how much work it was to run such a large property, so now 55- to 100-acre parcels are more popular," she said.
SQM Research analyst Louis Christopher said it was vital that people researched the town and check whether population statistics were growing or declining.
"A successful move to the country means moving to a town with a diverse economic base - either in commodities like gold or soft commodities like cattle - and a growing or stable population base."