Cancer is the last thing in the world young people should have to worry about, but recent figures released by a life company have revealed that cancer has overtaken even car accidents as a cause of death claims among people aged 20 to 40 years. In fact, a number of life insurance companies recently released their results together with a breakdown of claims, suggesting that cancer is fast becoming the top or second most common source of claims among young people.
Though cancer claims are obviously higher among older age groups, 20- and 30-somethings are experiencing a growing proportion of total cancer claims. Yet, while most young people will cover themselves against death, few have seen the need for dread disease or income protection cover believing it to be a remote possibility. Cancer is seldom identified by young people as the risk it has become, and so not near enough take out dread disease cover along with their life policy.
Incidence of cancer increase for young adults worldwide
Globally, according to Cancer Research UK, since the late 1970s, cancer incidence rates in teenagers and young adults have increased by almost three-fifths (55%) in the United Kingdom. The increase is larger in females where rates have increased 69%, than in males where rates have increased 44%.
This trend is occurring more in developing countries like South Africa than is the case in developed countries, and the World Health Organisation has warned that cancer cases are expected to surge a further 57% worldwide in the next 20 years.
Medical research suggests that while traditional forms of cancer which strike older generations are often lifestyle related and caused by smoking and drinking alcohol, those that strike younger people are genetic and cannot necessarily be prevented. And when such a chronic disease strikes a young person, the economic impact is going to be far greater than for someone in their twilight years.
Local claim statistics: cancer dominates
Liberty’s recent results announcement suggest that cancer is almost as high a risk among young life-assureds as it is among older segments of the population. It reported cancer as the leading cause of claims among young parents (22.5%), compared to 26.9% among ‘established providers’ or those at the peak of their careers, and 25.6% among ‘empty nesters’, those winding down their careers. Old Mutual has also released claims figures showing that 60% of all its critical illness claims were for people under 45.
Among men, one in four claims is for cancer, but among women this rises to one in three, according to Liberty. Among young people, cancer related claims made up 12.3% of claims and car accidents 11.9%.
In South Africa, many life companies reported cancer as the leading cause of claims last year, accounting for as much as one of four claims – and now a sizeable chunk of those involve pay-outs to young people. Furthermore, the major life companies – Liberty, Sanlam, Momentum, Old Mutual and Discovery - all report the percentage of dread disease claims attributable to cancer as being between 34% and 60%, with the median being 47%.
Young people not opting for dread disease cover
The fact is that most people today survive cancer and the bulk of claims paid are therefore not death claims. While that’s great news, the flip side is that the successful treatment to survive the illness is expensive. Yet, nine out of 10 people buying a policy typically select a death benefit and far fewer severe illness cover. For many people, this can be a life changing mistake, potentially leaving you out of pocket by an amount in the region of R500,000 for cancer treatments.
Many of the country’s largest medical schemes place a limit on pay-outs for cancer treatments, with some schemes also requiring a co-payment from the member, meaning additional insurance cover is essential.
While motor vehicle accidents are most-often cited as the reason young people need disability cover or income protection cover, it is now evident that more claims involve dread diseases like cancer ergo young people should buy dread disease cover sooner rather than later.