Emerging risk case study: mental health

Group of people meditating in the morning sun (photo)

Mental health issues have recently been on the rise. For the re/insurance industry this poses an emerging risk because it has implications for disability claims and cases of early mortality. Swiss Re not only seeks to adequately diversify risk tansfer solutions, but advocates awareness building, destigmatisation and preventive measures.

Mental health conditions cover a wide range, from psychological disorders such as depression to neurological ailments like dementia. Recently, the number of people diagnosed with mental health issues has been rising, and so have related healthcare costs and disability claims. For the re/insurance industry, the task of adequately diversifying risk transfer solutions is as much in focus as are preventive approaches.

Severe depression is of particular concern since it carries the risk of causing inability to work, higher suicide rates and increased likelihood for physical health impairment. Often it starts as mild mood or anxiety disorders, which in turn may be triggered or fostered by stress, social isolation, sleep deprivation, personal loss and similar issues. As the contribution of depression to the global “burden of disease” increases, the potential progression from risk triggers and mild phenomena to severe states is brought into sharper relief.

A notable development in this context is the increase of mental health issues among teenagers and young adults. If conditions remain untreated and persist, affected individuals may develop more severe mental health issues later in life, as well as physical health problems such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, back pain or diabetes. Preventing mental illness from developing or escalating can thus not only improve personal wellbeing, but reduce health costs, too. For re/insurers this has direct implications, especially regarding disability claims and cases of early mortality.

Swiss Re advocates destigmatisation as key to tackling mental health issues, favouring prevention, early intervention and continuous mental wellness management. Awareness should be raised especially on recognising mild and moderate disorders, regarding mental as well as physical health protection. Promising support services are likely to be provided by emerging technological tools: eg lifestyle and mood monitoring devices, alarm and intervention apps or support bots to provide advice in acute situations.

To help build re/insurance awareness and knowledge, Swiss Re pursues comparative research and continuously explores the potential of different approaches. With a focus on Asia, Swiss Re Institute has issued several publications on mental health risks.

Internally, we maintain a mental health network and have been running several campaigns to raise awareness, strengthen our employees’ resilience and help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues (see We perform).

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