Plagued with Covid, grief, mental health illnesses are on the rise in SA — Liberty

Business Insider SA
(Image: Getty Images)
(Image: Getty Images)

  • Claims for mental health illnesses have increased between 2020 and 2021 for Liberty.
  • The top mental health illnesses that dominated the company's claims were major depression, schizophrenia, and dementia.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic, long Covid, grief, and the inability to work, were some of the most significant contributors that weighed on clients mentally.
  • For more stories go to

The latest claims statistics from Liberty paint a bleak picture of the rise in South Africans battling depression and mental health illnesses.

On Wednesday, the financial services group and one of South Africa's largest life insurers, reported its claims statistics, which showed a spike in mental health claims during 2021.

For life protection claims, the company said the proportion of suicides increased to 5.8% last year, from 2.6% in 2020, while income protection claims for mental illness-related claims increased to 7.1% in 2021 from a previous 5.8%.

The bulk of its mental health claims, about 45% of them, were paid out to clients suffering from major depression, most of them, people in the workforce between the ages of 35 and 54 years old. About 15% of all the mental health claims were for schizophrenia and 10% for dementia.

The top mental health illness claims. (Source: Liberty)

Anxiety, the inability to work, and grief were some of the additional mental health conditions claimed for.

Claim volumes for mental health have remained high in 2022, Tumi Mothoagae, Head of Claims at Liberty, told Business Insider South Africa.

"It hasn't really abated; it is because we are still going through Covid, and people are still losing their jobs, and it is taking its toll," she said.

"One of the other impacts that are actually causing this is long Covid… because people are just not recovering from Covid, and that has a toll on them physically and mentally," Mothoagae said.

The claims data coincides with hospital group, Netcare's outlook for the year, which highlighted the emergence of the impact of long Covid.

The group reported its interim results through March, showing a 2% increase in revenue to R10.3 billion. It said the physical and mental health symptoms arising in people suffering from long Covid, will likely influence demand for medical services such as primary care, dialysis, acute care, and mental health. It said medical experts had identified more than 200 conditions and long-term effects related to long Covid.

"The stresses brought about by the pandemic have brought about long-term effects, including a mental health crisis because understandably, people lost loved ones, were retrenched, and are struggling to get by because of the economic upheaval," Dr Stott, Liberty's chief medical officer said.

Another factor that weighed on clients was retrenchments; even though claims for this category slightly decreased, the impacts on clients were still present, said Kedibone Chuene, chief specialist for product marketing at Liberty in the lifestyle protector individual client claims unit.

"Unemployment in South Africa continues to be high, and this weighs heavily on many South Africans, but the rate of increase has reduced from what was seen in 2020 during the early lockdown stages," said David Jewell, Liberty's executive for retail solutions.

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