May is Mental Health Awareness month in the U.S., with October 10 as World Mental Health Day. As such, May is a good time to remind ourselves of the impact of mental health on Life & Health Claims. We know globally, approximately 25% of the working age adult population (aged 18-65) experiences a mental health disorder in any given year. As of 2019, 1 in every 8 people (970 million) in the world suffered from a mental disorder.1 According to the World Health Organization, in 2020, the number of people living with anxiety and depressive disorders rose significantly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initial estimates showed a 26% and 28% increase respectively for anxiety and major depressive disorders in just one year. Suicide is also a serious global public health issue.2 More than 700,000 people die by suicide every year worldwide.3
Research tells us there is a connection between mental illnesses and numerous physical conditions including heart diseases, lung diseases, immune function, and pain. In assessing the mental health and co-morbidity of a claim, it is important to recognize that mental illnesses can increase the risk of certain types of physical health problems including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. In any of these circumstances, the symptoms may take a significant toll in terms of work and as a source of claim.
In light of this, appropriate assessment and management of comorbidities that may be caused or exacerbated by an underlying mental health condition is crucial to effectively managing such claims. Thankfully, the majority of common mental health symptoms and disorders resolve rapidly and those that experience them quickly return to their roles at work, as a parent, and/or as a caregiver.
There is also good evidence that when their care is managed in a sympathetic and clearly structured manner the outcomes are better, with few developing chronic difficulties.
We also know that stigma continues to play a role in Mental Health claims. Insured individuals and/or their families or beneficiaries may be reluctant to share information. Even today, some cultures still view mental health issues through a lens of punishment not assistance.4 This social stigma and potential legal action can impact what is submitted or shared on an insurance claim.
The insured or beneficiary may be reluctant to provide information or may try to hide or cover up the cause of the claim. This is often not intentional, it’s simply a byproduct of the societal factors and one that requires a skilled, empathetic claim professional.
What can the Claim Professional do?
Mental health claims can be challenging. We often find that claim professionals are intimidated by these claims, worried they will make the situation worse or unsure of what or how much information to gather.