As evidence of a sharp spike in mental illness continues to mount, experts are in little doubt that we’re living through a profound global trauma. The full extent of the crisis is yet to become clear, but we do know that more and more people are unable to work due to psychiatric disorders. Disability insurance can play a key healing role here by providing individuals and families with the means to focus on recovery.

That’s according to Dr Kerissa Naidoo, Old Mutual’s Chief Medical Officer, who points out that mental illness numbers were already on the rise — even before Covid-19 brought an entirely new level of daily uncertainty — and predicts a further increase for 2020.

Old Mutual’s 2019 personal cover claim statistics show that the group has paid out 59% more in psychiatric disorder claims under disability income cover since 2016.

The majority of claimants were adults of prime working age, with 83% aged between 30 and 50, and major depression was the reason for 62% of the psychiatric claims. There can be no doubt that the significantly more extreme pressures of 2020 will be taking their toll on this already embattled group.

The Old Mutual Savings and Investment Monitor Covid-19 Special Report, released in July, revealed that 52% of working South Africans are responsible for an adult dependent (up from 43% in 2019). At the same time, 57% are earning less than they were at the beginning of lockdown and 58% are feeling great financial stress.

Unsurprisingly, many are struggling to keep up, with 37% having fallen behind on household bills (up from 24% in 2019) and 32% have fallen behind on personal loan repayments.

Breaking a life-threatening cycle

The risk of a vicious cycle is real. When financial stress contributes to mental illness, such as debilitating anxiety and depression, then being unable to work only increases the anxiety about money and makes the condition worse.

While psychiatric conditions continue to carry the stigma of being ‘only in your head’, they are, in fact, frequently life-threatening. In addition to the steep increase in claims for psychiatric disorders, Old Mutual also saw the number of death claims as a result of suicide jump by almost a quarter (24%) from 2018 to 2019.

“Good disability insurance can make all the difference when it comes to recovery,” explains John Kotze, Head of Protection Solutions at Old Mutual.

“When you suffer a major mental health setback, the last thing you need is to be worried about money or having to go back to work before you’re ready. If you find yourself out of action – and none of us are immune, especially now – the income protection that disability insurance provides means you can continue taking care of your dependents and meeting your financial commitments.”

Part of a ground-breaking new range of personal cover that responds to your individual needs and budget, Old Mutual Disability Income Cover provides up to 24 monthly payments if you are impaired, unable to work or can’t take care of yourself due to an illness (including mental illness) or injury.  

What’s more, you can add the Income Extender Benefit to continue these monthly payments until you recover and can work again, or your cover ends. “Recovery is a journey that can’t be rushed,” says Kotze. “The Income Extender Benefit recognises this and means you’re not under pressure to get back to work until you’re truly ready.”

“Covid-19 has brought the fragility of life into sharp focus and made it clear that absolutely no one is invincible,” says Kotze. Knowing you have good disability insurance can reduce some of the anxiety of not being able to provide for your family – which, in turn, can only be good for your mental health.

Find out more at or speak to your financial adviser #PersonalCover  @OldMutualSA

Old Mutual Life Assurance Company (SA) Ltd is a licensed FSP.