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Anxiety and depression Life Insurance

Featured medical condition – Anxiety & Depression Life Insurance

Something that is very common, but not particularly well understood by the general public, we investigate the insurance underwriting position.

The term ‘depressed’ is a word used every day, probably more than it should be in general conversation these days, as it often relates to problems in work or splitting up with a boyfriend/girlfriend.

Medical professionals over the past 10 years have tried to label all mental health sufferers, regardless of how minor, which is clearly apparent when you see the International Classification of Disease Codes has increased from 20 to over 350, which all relate to mental health conditions.

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We aim in this article to concentrate on the more severe end of the spectrum of mental health conditions which are the most relevant to Life Insurance and Health Insurance.

Some Statistics

Recent statistics show that an alarming 1 in 4 Britons will at some point suffer from a mental health issue in any given year, the most common combinations being anxiety and depression. The estimated cost to the economy is around £8.6bn per year. The main reason for this is the ever increasing number of individuals who are unable to work due to a mental health problem, this figure does not however include the significant burden placed on the NHS by depression and other related mental health conditions.

Research also shows that the approximate cost of GP consultations for treatment of depression was in excess of £33m in 2007 to 2008, and treatment of depression in hospitals cost a further £218m.

Although depression and anxiety appear to be similar at first glance, they are not the same condition and commonly occur together. Not everyone who is anxious is depressed, however the majority of individuals suffering from depression have some anxiety symptoms.

Emotions such as despair, hopelessness and anger are generally generated from depression. Also sufferers find that energy levels are often low, sleep is generally disturbed and day-to-day tasks as well as important personal relationships can be overwhelming.

An individual with anxiety disorder is different in that they experience panic, fear or anxiety in circumstances that most would be able to manage or deal with. The person suffering from anxiety may suddenly experience anxiety or panic without a specific trigger or reason for it and they often live with a constant anxiousness or nagging worry. Without proper treatment, this type of condition can cause restrictions to a persons ability to work, maintain a relationship or in more severe instances, leave the house.

Anxiety and depression are both treated in a very similar manner, which could explain why the two conditions are very often confused. Medication such as anti-depressants is regularly used for treatment of depression whereas behavioural therapy often helps sufferers to overcome both conditions.


The symptoms of true depression are low moods and other daily symptoms that last for at least two weeks. These symptoms may become severe enough to interfere with general daily activities.

The precise cause is not known and it is apparent that any individual can become depressed. There are certain individuals who are more prone to depression and it can develop for no obvious reason. There are also certain events in life that can trigger depression such as the death of a family member or close friend, child birth, separation or certain work situations.

Depression is more common in women than in men, particularly in times of child birth (postnatal depression) and menopause.

Even though it is not fully understood, it is believed that a chemical imbalance in the brain could be a factor. But, a change in certain chemicals in the brain is also believed to be a reason that anti-depressants are so effective for treating depression.

Depression can also be hereditary, for example if one parent becomes severely depressed then it is approximately 8 times more likely that the sibling would suffer from depression.

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A doctor would normally describe depression by the severity, such as:

  • Mild depression only affects some of daily life
  • Moderate depression symptoms are more significant
  • Severe depression causes activities of daily living to become almost impossible and a small proportion of severe sufferers may have psychotic episodes.


This condition is among the most common of all mental health conditions, with around 10% of the UK’s population suffering to levels where some kind of treatment is required. Similar to depression, women are more commonly affected by this than men. The condition rarely occurs at onset after the age of 45.

Anxiety is also normally a response to dangerous or stressful situations. In certain circumstances, anxiety can be helpful as it helps to prepare the body for action and can improve performance in particular activities. The condition becomes a problem when the affects are more intense and it can persistently interfere with daily living.

It can also be experienced in a variety of ways which can be physical and/or psychological, which can be fear of losing control, inner tension, chest pain and tightness, irritability, palpitations and sweating.

Other types of mental health conditions include:

The tendency here is for symptoms to come on weeks or even months after a particularly stressful period or event of a threatening or catastrophic nature, which would cause stress in the majority of individuals. These episodes can persist for many years and symptoms can include nightmares, flashbacks, being on edge and avoiding anything related to the stressful event. Sufferers generally also experience panic disorder, depression, generalised anxiety, guilt (of surviving) and possible blunting of emotions.

This particular form of depression is sometimes defined as an emotional disorder which is characterised by dramatic mood changes, from depression (low mood) to mania (extremely high mood), these shifts can sometimes by extremely quick as well. Sufferers of manic depression unfortunately tend to have a high suicide rate. It affects an equal number of men as it does women and tends to be a hereditary condition. Schizophrenia sufferers do not have a ‘split personality’ as was once believed, they tend to have hallucinations and delusions.

OCD is where an individual shows constantly recurring patterns of obsessive thoughts or compulsive actions which are repeated in exactly the same way and are forced onto the individual, even though the experience appears pointless. Such actions or thoughts can’t be suppressed and any attempts to do so invariably result in anxiety or internal tension. Contrary to popular belief, OCD is a relatively rare condition. Around 14% of the general population have minor obsession symptoms, OCD itself only occurs in 1 in 1,000 people(0.1%) with both men and women equally affected.

Where a disclosure of mild anxiety or depression is made on an application for life insurance, additional information would be requested and often via a tele-medical questionnaire. The reason for this is to ascertain the type of disorder, date of onset, symptoms, number of episodes, time off work, any suicidal attempts or self-harm, treatment and current mental state.

A full medical report may also be required where the telephone medical questionnaire reveals a more severe psychiatric condition.

Some likely underwriting outcomes are:

  • Is it a single event, recurrent or permanent
  • Has the individual been referred beyond GP care
  • Is the individual on treatment/medication, type of treatment / medication and whether they have been compliant
  • Any time off work and date of last occurrence

Anyone who has no true depression but suffers from mild anxiety and is healthy in all other aspects would normally not be charged an additional premium loading.

Individuals with depression, or who have suffered depression over the past 2 years before the application, are likely to incur a small loading and a possible exclusion for mood disorders for ‘own occupation’ on TPD benefit. If they haven’t had any treatment for the past 2 years prior to the application, they are likely to pay standard rates, depending on the severity of the previous condition and number of recurrences.

Depression or mild anxiety is highly unlikely to incur any loading to the premium however more serious psychiatric conditions can incur loadings.

Depression is one of the most common reasons for a disability claim and terms for Income Protection are offered with this in mind. Income protection is unlikely to be available to anyone currently on treatment for depression. If treatment has stopped then it may be possible with a postponement period of up to 2 years depending on symptoms, duration and severity of the condition. Where treatment has stopped more than 7 years ago then it may be possible to obtain income protection cover with no exclusions and at standard rates, but this depends on the history of the condition.