We are the voice of insurance and long-term savings | Contact us

Reflecting on Mental Health Awareness Week: The role of insurance

Raluca Boroianu-Omura, Assistant Director (Acting), Head of Health and Protection, ABI Raluca Boroianu-Omura, Assistant Director (Acting), Head of Health and Protection, ABI

Tackling mental health problems is one of the biggest challenges for our society and all of us have a role to play to address it. During this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we should take stock and reflect on how each part of our society can help to meet this challenge. For insurers, this means assessing the tangible impact that income protection delivers for those affected by mental health issues.

Work has a highly positive impact on mental health when compared to unemployment or long-term sickness absence, as a landmark review of the academic evidence by the Department of Health in 2006 found. Therefore, our collective attention should be focused on ensuring that employees with mental health issues receive the right level of support at the right time, enabling them to continue to pursue a fulfilling work life.

Employers are in a unique position to help their staff suffering from mental health problems and one way employers can do this is with Group Income Protection. 

Employers are in a unique position to help their staff suffering from mental health problems and one way employers can do this is with Group Income Protection. As well as protecting up to 85% of an employee’s income if they are unable to work because of illness or disability, these products are vital as they provide rehabilitation services to return people to work more quickly. Insurer provided rehab such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and 24 hour counselling services can significantly reduce the time that people spend off work because of mental health problems.

For example, Canada Life’s early intervention service reduces the length of time claimants spend off work for mental health reasons by an average of 70%. Given that the average long term sickness absence is 7 years, this figure is really encouraging. Of those that used Unum’s return to work service last year, 7 out of 10 returned to the workplace, with the highest proportion using the service for mental health problems (41%).

If an individual does not have income protection through work or is self-employed, they can buy an individual income protection policy directly with an insurer to ensure they have the right level of cover and access to rehabilitation.

The ABI’s latest protection claims statistics show that mental health issues are the leading reason for a claim on an individual income protection policy, accounting for more than a quarter of claims (26%). Insurers pay out an average of £40,000 to individuals who claim on their income protection policy. For mental health problems specifically, insurers pay out 93% of claims.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the tangible benefits provided by income protection products, take up remains relatively low. 

The 7 families campaign shows what a difference the right level of support can make for people with mental health issues. Paul Norbert did not have an income protection policy so when he needed to leave his job as a driving instructor because of his bipolar disorder, he lacked essential support. Through the charitable 7 families, he received services income protection could provide, including financial support, career advice and therapy, enabling him to rebuild his life so he is now ready to get back to work.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the tangible benefits provided by income protection products, take up remains relatively low. While numbers have increased in recent years, only 11% of the working population are covered by income protection.

With around one third of the population experiencing mental health related symptoms at any one time, more needs to be done. The ABI is committed to ensuring more people are protected and enjoy this kind of support. We are working alongside our members, Government, and other stakeholders to better understand and tackle the barriers preventing take up of income protection, to help reduce the impact mental health issues have on working lives.

Raluca Boroianu-Omura is Assistant Director (Acting), Head of Health and Protection, at the Association of British Insurers (ABI)


Last updated 29/06/2016