A recently published report by multi-line insurer Zurich International Life, who are operating within the Middle East, has revealed the trend of the region’s health risks. The findings placed a renewed focus on the serious illnesses or causes of death across the Middle East, as well as the factors which influenced customers’ insurance purchasing decisions.
Its 2021 Customer Benefits Paid Report revealed that people are giving more consideration to insurance cover, especially since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.
With Covid-19 the major health story of 2020, the pandemic has had a marked effect on people’s behaviour towards financial protection. According to a YouGov survey commissioned by Zurich, only 22% of respondents felt financially prepared for unfortunate family events. Interestingly, more male respondents (65.56%) felt somewhat/well prepared, compared to 56.07% of women who felt the same.
Across all age categories, more than half of respondents said that due to Covid-19, they were somewhat likely or extremely likely to consider purchasing life or critical illness cover, with more than 63.3% of respondents aged between 18 and 34 stating that they had already purchased life insurance since the start of the global crisis.
Citizens of the Middle East are also paying increased attention to the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, with many taking up exercise, yoga, and other physical and mental wellbeing activities in a bid to reduce or mitigate the risks of developing long-term, serious illnesses.
This factor is especially prescient, as the report highlights the strong correlation that exists between critical illnesses and life insurance claims; with the rate being almost equal to each other. This demonstrates that while people are actually living longer, an increasing figure is experiencing critical illnesses and dealing with the associated financial impact of managing chronic conditions.
In terms of the biggest threats to life, heart attacks and strokes were the biggest risk – 43% – followed by cancer – 27% – and accidents – 10%. Covid-19, while a relatively new illness, was responsible for 5% of all life insurance claims; a revelation revealed by the report.
Cancer led the list of the gravest critical illness risks, followed by heart attacks, various chronic conditions, and strokes. A split by gender reveals that heart attacks were the lead critical illness insurance claim for males – 53% – while only 5% of females claimed for the same condition. Cancer led the female benefit claims list at 85%; with the illness accounting for only 31% of benefit claims for males.
Richa Bhagari, a Zurich customer from Dubai, said that being diagnosed with cancer in August 2020 was one of the most challenging periods of her life. The 45-year-old happily married entrepreneur and mother of one said that the treatment was not only painful but both physically and mentally draining.
She revealed the secret to coping was “to have a positive outlook, be it in business or in life. You have to train your mind to be optimistic, place mind over matter and take things in your stride.”
“My learning from this experience is to be secure; to be protected financially, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Be ready for life.”
Another significant trend to consider is that while there has been an increase in the number of people with pre-existing conditions seeking the financial security of insurance protection, Zurich is still accepting 99% of applications for cover. The report shows that 12% of applicants were shown to be overweight, with 5.6% having raised blood sugar levels – which can lead to long-term serious conditions.
Given the role of females as key decision-makers when it comes to household finances, it is noteworthy that women tended to find life insurance too expensive to purchase compared to men. Of those surveyed, 42.8% of women said they don’t have insurance because it is too expensive, compared to 34% of men who lacked cover due to similar circumstances.
“This report demonstrates that while people are living longer, many of us may have to contend with a life-threatening situation at some point in the future,” comments Walter Jopp, CEO of Zurich in the Middle East. “This is why it’s important to be prepared and to consider all options – whether that be the potential of contracting a serious illness or even death.”
“Our survey shows that 37% of respondents don’t have life or critical illness cover because they deem it too expensive, however, people might be surprised to learn we have a range of flexible and affordable coverage options. For instance, we’ve launched YourLife and YourCare, which are instant, simple, and accessible solutions, with protection starting from just 2 AED per day.”
“At Zurich, we are committed to helping provide financial security and assurance to families – whatever the circumstances. We are proud to have paid 98.1% of life insurance claim payments, amounting to a total of $136 million in customer benefits between January 2018 and December 2020.”