Insurance is as important for the mind as it is the body

Five Ways to WellbeingMental health is no different to physical health: we can no less escape the constraints of our minds than we can the frailties of our body.

If we look at the numbers, we find that one in six Kiwis will at some point in their lives be diagnosed with a common mental health disorder. Many more will experience episodic challenges.

As an insurance guy and an actuary, I am passionate about the vital role that insurance can play in helping New Zealanders who are experiencing mental health issues.

Sovereign’s disability income claims data shows that mental health issues tend to require more recovery time than other health issues. About 50% of mental health claims remain open one year into the claim. This compares with 15% of injury clams and 35% of illness claims. In fact, the average length of a mental health claim is about 260 days – the only other condition that comes even close is cancer at about 210 days (the next highest duration is cardiovascular at 140 days).

We understand that our customers need more than financial support. That’s why we take a holistic approach to claims and spend considerable effort supporting customers with their recovery journey. For example, we offer customers access to a dedicated case manager to help co-ordinate private psychological support, occupational therapy, vocational re-training, and return to work support. Helping to support customers back to living their lives not only makes good financial sense but is a core part of our brand promise: being the difference in life’s moments of truth.

Several months ago, I had the privilege of facilitating a mental health panel at our bi-annual Adviser conference. Amongst the panellists was Shaun Robinson, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation. Shaun spoke of the mental health challenges and opportunities facing our nation. I especially connected with the “Five Ways to Wellbeing” – simple, evidence-based actions that help us maintain positive mental health. These are:

  • Connecting (me whakawhanaunga) – connecting with our families, our friends, and our communities gives us a sense of belonging and a wider purpose in our lives.
  • Giving (tukau) – giving our time, energy, attention, or financial resources is shown to significantly improve our own happiness;
  • Take notice (me aro tonu) – slowing ourselves down each day to notice ourselves, others, and our environment is both calming and helps us focus on those things that matter;
  • Learning (me ako tonu) – people are curious beings. Indulging our interests is both incredibly enjoyable and helps to give our lives a sense of balance; and
  • Being active (me kori tonu) – physical activity helps to keep us healthy, resilient, alert, and feeling good.

If we think of our mental health as a bank account, regular “deposits” of these five actions helps us to accumulate a surplus of positive mental wellbeing to guard against the inevitable bumps in the road.

Author: Len Elikhis

The financial services industry plays an important role in securing people's futures. I have a strong interest in improving financial literacy and delivering sustainable customer solutions in my role as Chief Product Officer at Sovereign, New Zealand’s largest life insurer. A qualified actuary, I was part of the leadership team that transformed Sovereign’s health business and have worked for MLC and Deloitte in Australia.

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