Insurers flag mental health link to financial difficulty

Insurers flag mental health link to financial difficulty

Advisers can help tackle the financial difficulties brought on as a result of mental illness by providing support and advice on suitable protection products, insurers have claimed.

 According to research from Axa PPP Healthcare, one-third of workers in Britain have lived with mental ill health - a problem which has been described by Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc, as an "iceberg".

In a study of more than 4,000 UK adults, who are in full or part-time work, 36 per cent have lived with mental health problems, while 52 per cent admitted to facing financial difficulties. A further 30 per cent have cited problems with physical ill health.

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Of those workers who say they had suffered with their mental health 81 per cent have also had physical health issues, and 52 per cent of those with mental health problems have experienced severe adverse effects on their financial situation at the same time.

This is a “triple threat” to the workforce, many of whom do not understand what sort of employee benefits packages their employer offers, or what conditions might be covered by workplace healthcare benefits.

Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services for Axa PPP Healthcare, commented: “When employees are experiencing financial problems or have a mental health or physical health issue, the link between these areas of wellbeing may lead to their negative experience being exacerbated.

“It’s a potentially toxic mix that calls for careful handling. When considering wellbeing initiatives, employers would be wise to take a holistic approach to enable employees to maintain their mental, physical and financial wellbeing.

“This may involve providing suitable support to help them manage their problems, such as an employee assistance programme, and other online resources and helplines, such as those provided by the mental health charity, Mind, and Citizens Advice.”

He urged employers to support their staff more through such issues - although as Katharine Moxham, spokesman for Group Risk Development (Grid) has highlighted, too often employers do not do enough to promote the benefits of group risk protection within the workplace.

She said: “Employers with group risk protection often fail to use the full support within such products to help their staff.”

Such services can include support for mental health, employee assistance programmes, mental health first aid training and fast-track access to counselling.

However, research carried out by Grid revealed 50 per cent of employers who offer products such as group critical illness, group income protection and group life assurance, do not make use of the support services that come as part of the contract.

She said: “Although generally we may be more willing to talk about mental health today, many employees are still reticent to talk to their employer about their own mental health needs.

“Group Risk protection policies can be a great support by providing direct access to specialists and practical help when it’s most needed, and of course, getting the most out of these services means using them as they are intended - every day. This, in turn, can reinforce the position of a business as a caring organisation as well as giving vital support to people when they most need it.”