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Mental health claims spiked because of Covid-19, says Liberty

25 May 2022 - 18:23
Liberty says Covid-19 led scores of people to mental health issues, particularly depresssion.
Liberty says Covid-19 led scores of people to mental health issues, particularly depresssion.
Image: 123rf

Financial services group Liberty has reported a spike in mental health claims in 2021, particularly among working people between 35 and 54 years of age, as the stress brought on by Covid-19 weighed heavily.

Depression accounted for 45% of all mental health claims, schizophrenia made up 15% and dementia 10% of claims. According to chief medical officer, Dominique Stott, time anxiety, the inability to work and grief also contributed to mental health claims,

“The stresses brought about by the pandemic have brought about long-term effects, including a mental health crisis, because people lost loved ones, were retrenched and are struggling to get by because of the economic upheaval.”

Claims under its flagship lifestyle protector policy shot up to R10.12bn in 2021 from R6.43bn, mainly due to the pandemic. The Delta wave and Beta waves coupled with “all the other existing risk events that clients are ordinarily exposed to outside the virus” contributed to the higher claims, the group said.

Liberty executive for retail solutions David Jewell said the effects of the pandemic became real during the year.

“This was something we had anticipated and we were able to be there for our clients during this difficult time. The pandemic demonstrated the value of insurance in that it was a completely unexpected event and a reminder that life doesn't always follow a predictable course,” said Jewell.

Covid-19-related claims amounted to R3.47bn paid out to clients and their families. More than 61% of these claims were related to life cover.

Other claims were due to cancer, cardiovascular disorders, respiratory disorders and strokes.

Among men, prostate cancer was the most common, making up almost 29% of male cancer claims. For women, breast cancer was the most common, comprising 38% of female cancer claims. Various heart-related conditions comprised 17.4% of all disease claims.

“Cancer and many heart conditions can in part be understood as lifestyle-related conditions and this reflects on the health challenges faced by many South Africans,” said Stott.

In terms of retrenchment claims, Liberty said the numbers were not as high as in 2020, accounting for 7.2% of all lifestyle protector claims compared to 8% a year earlier.

Retrenchment remains higher than the pre-pandemic numbers seen in 2019 amid tough economic conditions.

“Unemployment in SA continues to be high and this weighs heavily on many South Africans, but the rate of increase has reduced from what was seen in 2020 during the early lockdown stages,” said Jewell.

The economy shed 2.2-million jobs in the second quarter of 2020 due to the lockdown in the first wave.


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