Surge in cardiovascular deaths – implications for life insurance


Siyathemba Maphumulo | Supervisor | Direct Marketing | AVBOB | mail me |

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), encompassing heart disease and stroke, has been a major cause of death globally for a long time. It has affected individuals and their families and had far-reaching consequences for industries that provide financial security, such as life insurance.

In recent years, there has been a worrying surge in the number of cardiovascular disease cases, and this surge is having a profound impact on the life insurance industry. In this article, we will delve into how the increase in cardiovascular disease is affecting the life insurance sector in South Africa.

Alarming increase in cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular disease is a major health concern worldwide. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA), CVD is the primary cause of disability and death globally, resulting in 17 million deaths each year (31% of total global deaths).

Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as lack of physical activity, poor diet, stress, and other risk factors have contributed to the increasing incidence of heart-related conditions. According to recent reports by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the number of CVD cases steadily increased between 2008 and 2018.

In 2008, CVD deaths accounted for 12.9% (77,373) of all deaths, while in 2018, it increased to 17.6% (80,133) of all reported deaths. This trend has led to increased people seeking life insurance coverage, which has presented unique challenges for insurance providers.

Mandatory response to CVD increase

One of the primary concerns for life insurance companies is the need to assess and underwrite policies accurately.

Before an insurance company accepts an insurance application for coverage, they analyse clients’ personal, financial, and medical details. Then, they calculate the level of risk you present to their business, also known as a risk score.

As more individuals present with pre-existing heart conditions, insurance companies face a higher likelihood of paying out claims sooner. In response, most insurers have adjusted their underwriting criteria. This often results in applicants with cardiovascular issues being offered policies with higher premiums or, in some cases, denied coverage altogether.

Due to the rise in cardiovascular disease, insurance companies have had to re-evaluate their pricing strategies. Pricing life insurance for individuals with CVD can be a complicated process, with many factors to consider. Insurers must strike a balance between providing affordable coverage for policyholders and maintaining profitability.

As cardiovascular disease increases the mortality risk, insurance companies may need to raise premiums for existing policyholders or introduce specialised products that cater specifically to individuals with heart conditions. The empirical evidence compiled by Stats SA for the 2008 up to 2018 period, shows that there was a higher mortality risk for females compared to males. This trend will prompt insurers to regularly review premiums for female life assurance policies, thus females are most likely to pay more premiums for life insurance policies.

Insurance companies are adapting to changing market conditions by developing new products that cater to individuals with cardiovascular conditions. These policies come with higher premiums and specific terms and conditions related to heart health. This allows insurers to tap into an underserved market while managing risks effectively.

The surge in cardiovascular disease risks has led to multiple insurance companies competing fiercely to gain market share. As a result, this competition can lead to innovative product offerings and potentially more affordable options for consumers, as companies strive to differentiate themselves in a competitive landscape.

Reinsurance costs

Insurance companies purchase reinsurance to reduce their financial risk exposure. Reinsurance is essentially insurance for insurers – it allows them to transfer some of their risk to another insurance company for a fee. This can be particularly valuable if there is a catastrophic event that results in many claims being filed. However, as the prevalence of cardiovascular disease continues to grow, reinsurers may raise their rates, which can further impact insurance companies’ bottom lines. This is because insurance companies often rely on reinsurance to mitigate their risk exposure and protect their financial stability.

The increased costs associated with reinsurance can be passed on to policyholders through higher premiums, as insurance companies seek to maintain their profit margins.

In the end, policyholders may bear the brunt of these increased costs, making it more challenging for them to afford the coverage they need. As a result, it is essential for insurance companies to carefully manage their risk exposure and explore other options for reducing costs, such as implementing preventive health programs or negotiating better rates with reinsurers.

Education & prevention

As cardiovascular disease continues to affect millions of people worldwide, some insurance companies have recognized the need to take a proactive approach to mitigate the risks associated with heart conditions.

To that end, these forward-thinking insurers have invested in multiple initiatives aimed at educating their policyholders about the causes of cardiovascular disease and promoting healthier lifestyles. These initiatives range from offering online resources and webinars to hosting in-person events and workshops.

By empowering their policyholders with knowledge and tools to make healthier choices, insurance companies can positively impact the health outcomes of their customers.

Additionally, promoting healthier behaviors can help reduce the likelihood of claims related to heart conditions, which in turn can lead to more affordable premiums for policyholders. Overall, these efforts demonstrate a commitment to the well-being of their customers and a willingness to go beyond traditional insurance offerings to provide value-added services that benefit both the insured and the insurer.

Claims management process

The management of claims related to cardiovascular disease is a multifaceted and often expensive process.

Insurance companies must invest additional resources to handle these claims effectively, as cardiovascular disease claims typically involve extensive treatment and care. This requires close cooperation with healthcare providers to ensure that patients receive the necessary treatment and care. In addition to this, there is a greater emphasis on claims processing to make sure that policyholders receive their benefits on time.This involves careful monitoring of the claims process to ensure that it is efficient and accurate.

The insurance company must also work closely with the patient and their healthcare provider to verify the validity of the claim and determine the appropriate level of coverage. Overall, the management of claims related to CVD is a complex process that requires careful coordination and communication between insurance companies and healthcare providers.

In conclusion

Cardiovascular disease is a growing concern for both public health and the life insurance industry. To tackle this issue, insurance companies must revise their underwriting, pricing, and product development strategies. They need to invest in education and claims management and adhere to evolving regulatory requirements.

With innovative approaches, insurance providers can continue to offer essential financial protection while managing the risks associated with the increasing prevalence of cardiovascular disease.



  1. As someone who had heart problems and end up paying more on life cover because of my condition, this was so educational.

    Thank you for such wonderful info Mr Maphumulo looking forward to reading more of your findings


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