~ A recent report and companion YouGov survey released by one of the region’s leading life insurers spotlights the key health risk trends that are affecting people across the Middle East as well as insights into consumer behaviour that drives protection purchasing decisions ~

Dubai, UAE: Zurich International Life in the Middle East (Zurich) has revealed some key insights into regional health risk trends, placing renewed focus on the serious illnesses or causes of death across the Middle East, as well as the factors, behind customers’ insurance purchase decisions.

Its 2021 Customer Benefits Paid Report revealed that people are giving more consideration to insurance cover, especially since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With Covid-19 the major health story of 2020, the pandemic has had a marked effect on people’s behaviour towards financial protection. According to a YouGov survey commissioned by Zurich, only 22 per cent of respondents felt financially prepared for unfortunate family events. Interestingly, more male respondents (65.56 per cent) felt somewhat/well prepared compared to 56.07 per cent of women who felt the same.

Across all age categories, more than half of respondents said that due to Covid-19, they were somewhat likely or extremely likely to consider purchasing life or critical illness cover, with more than 63.3 per cent of respondents aged 18-34 saying they purchased life insurance since the start of the global crisis.

People in the Middle East are also paying increased attention to the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, with many taking up exercise, yoga and other physical and mental wellbeing activities in a bid to reduce or mitigate the risks of developing long-term, serious illness.

This is especially prescient when considering that the report reveals, of the total amount paid in benefits, the split between critical illness and life insurance claims was almost equal. This demonstrates that while people are actually living longer, more and more people are contracting critical illnesses and dealing with the associated financial impact of managing chronic conditions.

In terms of the biggest threats to life, heart attacks and strokes were the biggest risk (43 per cent), followed by cancer (27 per cent), and accidents (10 per cent). Covid-19, while a relatively new illness, was responsible for 5 per cent of all life insurance claims, reveals the report. 

Cancer led the list of the gravest critical illness risks followed by heart attacks, various chronic conditions and strokes. A split by gender reveals that heart attacks were the lead critical illness insurance claim for males (53 per cent), while only 5 per cent of females claimed for the same condition. Cancer led the female benefit claims list (85 per cent), with the illness accounting for only 31 per cent of benefit claims for males.

Another import trend to consider is that while there has been an increase in the number of people with pre-existing conditions seeking the financial security of insurance protection, Zurich is still accepting 99 per cent of applications for cover. The report shows that 12 per cent of applicants were shown to be overweight, with 5.6 per cent having raised blood sugar levels – which can lead to long-term serious conditions.

Given the role of females as key decision makers when it comes to household finances, it is noteworthy that women tended to find life insurance too expensive to purchase compared to men. Of those surveyed, 42.8 per cent of women said they don’t have insurance because it is too expensive, compared to 34 per cent of men who lacked cover for the same reason. 

Walter Jopp, CEO of Zurich in the Middle East, said: “This report demonstrates that while people are living longer, many of us may have to contend with a life-threatening situation at some point in the future. This is why it’s important to be prepared and to consider all options – whether that be the potential of contracting a serious illness or even death.”

“Our survey shows that 37 per cent of respondents don’t have life or critical illness cover because they deem it too expensive, however, people might be surprised to learn we have a range of flexible and affordable cover options. For instance, we’ve launched YourLife and YourCare, which are instant, simple and accessible solutions, with protection starting from just 2 AED per day.”

“At Zurich, we are committed to helping provide financial security and assurance to families – whatever the circumstances. We are proud to have paid 98.1 per cent of life insurance claim payments, amounting to a total of USD 136 million in customer benefits between January 2018 and December 2020.”

Richa Bhagari, a Zurich customer from Dubai, said that being diagnosed with cancer in August 2020 was one of the most challenging periods of her life. The 45-year-old happily married entrepreneur and mother of one said that the treatment was not only painful but both physically and mentally draining.

She revealed the secret to coping was “to have a positive outlook, be it in business or in life. You have to train your mind to be optimistic, place mind over matter and take things in your stride.”

“My learning from this experience is to be secure; to be protected financially, physically, mentally and spiritually. Be ready for life.”

To find out more on Richa’s story, please visit: [web link] 

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About Zurich Insurance Group:

Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) is a leading multi-line insurer that serves its customers in global and local markets. With about 55,000 employees, it provides a wide range of property and casualty, and life insurance products and services in more than 215 countries and territories. Zurich’s customers include individuals, small businesses, and mid-sized and large companies, as well as multinational corporations. The Group is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, where it was founded in 1872. The holding company, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd (ZURN), is listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and has a level I American Depositary Receipt (ZURVY) program, which is traded over-the-counter on OTCQX.

About Zurich International Life Limited:
Zurich International Life Limited is a part of Zurich Insurance Group and established in the Isle of Man which is licensed by the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority with established and registered branches in the UAE licensed by the Central Bank of the UAE, Bahrain licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain, and the Qatar Financial Centre authorised by the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority. In the UAE it is registered (Registration No. 63) under UAE Federal Law Number 6 of 2007, and its activities in the UAE are governed by such law.