Suicide is a difficult, emotive, and complex subject to discuss. The most recent figures from the Samaritans show that 6,524 people took their own life in the UK in 2018 – all of them family members, friends, and colleagues whose lives were cut short.
Of course, it’s not a subject you’re likely to want to spend a lot of time thinking about – especially when it comes to your life insurance.
Intuitively, you might think that an insurer wouldn’t be prepared to pay out a significant lump sum in the event of a suicide. And, when we speak to people looking for life insurance, they often assume that cover won’t pay out if someone takes their own life.
However, in most cases, life insurance will pay out in this situation. Read on to find out more about suicide in the UK, and how life insurers approach claims of this nature.
On an average day in the UK, 18 people will take their own life. It remains a significant social issue, with more than 6,000 parents, children, friends, family, and colleagues ending their life in 2018.
In some social groups it represents one of the major causes of death in the UK. Indeed, you may be surprised to learn that suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the country.
In some part of the UK the incidence of suicide is even greater. For example, there was a 15% increase in the number of suicides in Scotland in 2019, with 16.6 deaths reported per 100,000 people, compared to 11 deaths per 100,000 people in England and Wales.
Research undertaken by the Samaritans suggests that socio-economic status tends to be the main cause of suicide – this includes factors such as austerity, recessions, and unemployment.
Relationship breakdown is another factor, particularly in younger men, as this often means they lose a valuable source of emotional support or have access to their children restricted.
The pandemic has impacted everyone in different ways. Many have been affected economically, through jobs being furloughed and redundancy as businesses faltered during extended lockdowns.
Of course, Covid-19 has affected many peoples’ physical health. There have been more than four million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK, leading to a range of health issues from mild illness to severe breathing problems and so-called “long Covid”.
And many experts have been concerned about the impact of coronavirus on individuals’ mental health. Office for National Statistics figures suggest that the number of adults in the UK reporting symptoms of depression almost doubled during the pandemic (compared to before the pandemic).
A major concern of this increase in mental health issues was that this would lead to a greater number of people taking their own lives.
With research suggesting that young people, rather than older people, are most vulnerable to increased psychological distress, many charities and support organisations shared concerns about the likely rate of suicide as a consequence of lockdown restrictions and economic uncertainty.
However, the most recent findings have suggested that, encouragingly, there was no apparent increase in suicide rates either during or in the seven months following the first national lockdown.
A report for Lancet Regional Health commented that, while the lockdown might have led to isolation and increased anxiety and potential suicidal thoughts for many, it may also have led to increased vigilance and support for others deemed to be at an increased risk. Consequently, there was no increase in the suicide rate in the UK during 2020.
Of course, suicide is a difficult subject to discuss. However, as life insurance experts it’s important to look at all the factors which could affect you and your family’s future.
Since life insurance is there to protect loved ones in the event of an individual’s death, it is important to understand whether life insurance covers suicide.
If an insured person passes away due to suicide or intentional self-injury after the first year of taking out the cover, the policy will typically pay out. It will be treated the same as any other cause of death.
If the insured person takes their own life within the first year of taking out the policy, an insurer will not normally pay out.
Life insurers say that this restriction reduces the financial incentive for someone to tragically take their own life because they might want to trigger a life insurance payout. Although this seems unimaginable, it could be possible for an individual planning to take their own life to put a significant amount of cover in place in the hope of generating a payout for loved ones.
As we identified above, an insurer will generally not pay a claim if an insured person takes their own life within one year of taking out cover.
There are some other circumstances where an insurer may also not pay a claim:
When taking out life insurance, it’s important that you complete the form accurately and honestly. If you have experienced mental health issues in the past you must declare this on the proposal form. If you don’t, it might mean the insurer doesn’t pay a claim, leaving your loved ones in a difficult position.
We specialise in helping people with mental health issues to get the life insurance they need so please get in touch to find out what we can do for you.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, the most important thing is that you get the support you need. Remember, mental health emergencies are serious. You're not wasting anyone's time.
If you are finding it difficult to cope, the Samaritans offer free telephone conversations any time of day or night throughout the year. Call 116 123 (UK and Ireland) to speak to someone.
If you feel as if you might attempt suicide, or you have seriously harmed yourself, you need urgent medical help. Call 999 for an ambulance or go straight to your local A&E if you can.
If you are safe for now but feel as if you need help, contact NHS 111 if you live in England or NHS Direct (0845 46 47) if you live in Wales. You can also contact your local GP surgery and ask for an emergency appointment or contact a local urgent mental health helpline if you’re in England.
In Scotland, call Breathing Space free on 0800 83 85 87 for support. This national phoneline and support service is funded by the Scottish government’s Mental Health Unit.
As we have seen, insurers will typically pay a life insurance claim if the insured person takes their own life, provided they have held the cover for more than a year.
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