If you have experienced a mental health issue, you’re far from alone. According to official Office for National Statistics figures, around 1 in 5 adults experienced some form of depression in early 2021 (27 January to 7 March).
This represents an increase since November 2020 and more than double that observed before the coronavirus pandemic (10%).
With so many people having experienced depression, stress, or anxiety it’s refreshing to see that many of the UK’s leading insurers are changing their approach to mental health when it comes to underwriting popular protection products.
In 2020, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) launched new Mental Health Standards to help drive consistency and best practice across the industry. These new standards are designed to help consumers who have experienced a mental health condition to obtain cover.
They also give confidence to people that mental health issues are not a barrier to accessing the right insurance and improving their financial resilience.
Leading insurer Scottish Widows say that mental health is “by far” their biggest disclosure on life insurance and Critical Illness cover applications, with around 20% of customers disclosing a mental health issue. The provider say that this has increased over the last year, as “mental health also became the most talked about side effect of social distancing and lockdown”.
So, if you have experienced a mental health issue, and you want life insurance, income protection or Critical Illness cover, these changes should make it easier for you to access the protection you need. Read on to find out more.
Can I get life insurance with a mental health condition?
Yes, you can get life insurance if you currently have a mental health condition, or you have experienced an issue in the past.
The main thing to remember is that you need to be honest and accurate when it comes to completing your application form. You must disclose all mental health conditions (and other conditions) as part of your application, including symptoms, dates, and any medication you were prescribed.
Mental health conditions are protected by the UK Equality Act of 2010. This means it is illegal for insurers in the United Kingdom to discriminate against you if you have a mental health issue.
Bear in mind that some insurers may still be unable to offer cover based on the information you disclose. Others may exclude claims relating to mental health (this may be particularly true of income protection and Critical Illness cover policies).
Having a mental health condition doesn’t affect the cover itself as, in most cases, you will be covered for all the same things as you would be with another policy. It’s normally only the process of getting a quote and the price that may differ, depending on the specific underwriting criteria of the insurer.
What mental health information might I have to provide on an application form?
Every insurer has a different underwriting procedure and so each will ask slightly different questions. In general terms you will have to provide information specific to your condition. This is likely to include details of your medical history and how your condition affects your day-to-day life.
You will typically have to share:
- The name of the condition you have been diagnosed with
- The date you were diagnosed
- Any information regarding hospital admissions
- Whether you have been referred to a specialist (for example, a psychiatrist, psychologist, specialist pharmacist, nurse, or social worker)
- Any medication you take/have taken and the date you started taking this for your condition
- Details of how your condition affects your everyday life (for example, have you been absent from work?).
Changes to the application process and more sensitive language
Major insurers have been working hard in recent months to incorporate the new ABI mental health standards.
Some, including Scottish Widows, have even been working with charity partners such as Mental Health UK to implement changes to their underwriting approach for customers with a mental health condition.
Changes you can expect to see include:
- Simpler questions that you must answer when applying for cover, to make it easier for you to tell an insurer about your condition
- Where applications need to be referred for further underwriting decisions, some insurers also now offer an option for you to tell your story in your own words if that helps you to explain your position
- More sensitive language – avoiding terms such as “declined” – to support applicants
- Language that is easier to understand.
Here’s a closer look at some of the changes the major insurers in the UK have made.
In 2020, Scottish Widows accepted 95% of applications from customers disclosing a mental health condition. The overwhelming majority of these (85%) were offered standard rates.
As well as simplifying the questions you must answer when applying for cover, you can also share your own story if the application is referred for an underwriting decision.
Firstly, Royal London has added an “introduction to underwriting” in their application forms which explains the underwriting process.
The insurer has also added a new “mental health” section to their application form which contains all the questions relating to mental health.
Royal London have also removed negative language such as “decline” or “refused” and replaced it with softer terminology such as “unable to offer cover” or “unable to accept.”
Aviva, one of the UK’s biggest insurers, have undertaken a full review of their mental health questions and the underlying rules, ensuring the language used is sensitive and easy for you to understand. The insurer has also reviewed where automated decisions can be made.
As a result of these updates, Aviva anticipate that 9 in 10 customers disclosing a common mental health condition will receive an immediate point of sale decision.
Vitality have recently relaxed their underwriting rules for common mental health disclosures such as depression and anxiety.
The insurer says that, as long as these conditions are under control and there are no other risk factors, their underwriting rules will accept the case automatically with no increase to the premium.
For Serious Illness cover, income protection, and waiver of premium there will be an exclusion.
Speaking to an expert can help you get the mental health life insurance you need
Many people we speak to are worried that they won’t get the life insurance they need because they have pre-existing or current mental health conditions.
However, as you have read, insurers are happy to consider applications from people who have experienced stress, anxiety, or depression.
Furthermore, putting the right protection in place can actually boost your wellbeing because you benefit from the peace of mind that you and your family will receive financial support when you really need it.
As life insurance experts, we work closely with dozens of the UK’s top insurers to help people who have mental health conditions to get the cover they need.
We can approach providers on your behalf to discuss your situation and find the insurer who will offer the most competitive terms for the life insurance, Critical Illness cover or income protection that you want.
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