Point of view: Sanlam claims stats reveal young clients claiming more

According to the financial services group, this highlights a significant trend in the needs of younger clients. File photo.

According to the financial services group, this highlights a significant trend in the needs of younger clients. File photo.

Published Jun 16, 2024


A total of 67% of sickness and disability income claims were paid to clients under 45, this is according to the latest Sanlam claim statistics for 2023.

According to the financial services group, this highlights a significant trend in the needs of younger clients.

The group said in 2023, Sanlam paid out R10.7 billion in claims across both Sanlam Group risk and Sanlam risk and savings. Sanlam risk and savings paid over R6 billion for claims, amounting to R18 million in payouts every working day.

Sanlam risk and savings product actuary Petrie Marx said Sanlam remains steadfastly committed to helping move lives forwards financially by paying on its promise when it matters most.

"We encourage people to start talking more openly about risk cover and the way they’re choosing to protect the people they love. By having these courageous conversations, we can help amplify awareness around the need for policies to help people have the right support when unthinkable, costly life curve balls happen.

“Young people, especially, often think they are invincible but our statistics show a significant number of claims come from clients under 45. Younger individuals must have appropriate cover such as income protection and severe illness insurance to safeguard their financial futures,” he says.

According to Sanlam, 62% of disability claims came from people younger than 55, in their prime working years; for females, this sits higher at 70%. “Two-thirds of sickness and disability income claims came from individuals younger than 45. Also, more than half of all severe illness claims (57%) were for clients younger than 55; for women this was 70%,” the group says.

According to the group, key highlights from Sanlam risk and savings 2023 claim statistics are:

  • Total claims paid: claims came to over R6 billion.
  • Death Claims: 99% of all submitted death claims were paid, with the largest individual claim amounting to over R36 million. The oldest deceased claim was for a 109-year-old, and the youngest was for a 1-year-old.
  • Younger clients: a significant portion of claims were paid to younger clients, with 67% of sickness and disability income claims paid to clients under 45.
  • Five-year trend: Covid-19 caused a clear spike in claims, starting in 2020 and peaking in 2021. In 2022 and 2023, Sanlam continued to pay some claims for Covid-19 and also saw a slight elevation in other respiratory claims.
  • The big four: across all Sanlam benefits cardiovascular incidents were the biggest cause of claims at 18%; followed by cancer at 15%; respiratory illnesses at 12%; and accidents, violence, and injury at 12%. These four accounted for 57% of all claims paid.

According to Sanlam, for the past two decades, the rise in cardiovascular diseases has been flagged.

Sanlam’s chief medical officer Dr Marion Morkel said the increase in cardiovascular diseases was linked to lifestyle diseases and was magnified by the extra mortality burden of the pandemic.

“We continue to fail to address the key causes of diseases of lifestyle, so we’re likely to see cardiovascular incidents exponentially increase in the future. Obesity remains a major challenge in our country, with type II diabetes linked to this.”

The group says cardiovascular severe illness claims are on an accelerating trend for men but remained relatively constant for women.

"The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa says one in three males will have a cardiac event before they die; for women this is one in four. Younger women have marginal protection due to their hormones, which decreases when menopause is reached.

Men also experienced an increasing trend of severe illness claims for cancer; primarily for prostate cancer which is highly treatable with an early diagnosis, and for melanomas. Morkel urges regular screening for early detection for both.

Sanlam said its 2023 claim statistics highlight the specific risk cover needs of women, emphasising the importance of tailored insurance solutions to address their unique challenges and life circumstances.

Here are some of the key trends to emerge:

Cancer Coverage: Cancer remained a significant cause of severe illness claims among women, with breast cancer being the most prevalent. “This underscores the critical need for women to have cancer coverage to ensure financial support during treatment and recovery. Colon and cervical cancer are also common cancers in women,” it says.

An increase in accidents: there was a marked increase in sickness income claims for accidents and injuries from female clients, a significant number of which came from individuals aged 26 to 45. “Sanlam will be watching this closely to see if it’s an anomaly or sustained trend,” the group says.

Complications in pregnancy: In 2023, Sanlam paid R5.5m for C-sections as part of its cover for pregnancy complications under the sickness income benefit.

“Payment for pregnancy complications under its sickness income benefit has been increasing annually. Globally and in South Africa, C-sections are increasing because pregnancy complications are on the rise, linked primarily to lifestyle diseases.

Morkel says, “Obesity, hypertension, and type II diabetes are starting earlier. These conditions are magnified by pregnancy. We’re also seeing women have first pregnancies later in life, which can bring more complications and cause obstetricians to opt for caesarean sections.”

Morkel says claims for Covid-19-linked deaths have dropped, now only impacting individuals who are elderly or immuno-compromised. However, there’s been a rise in pneumonia linked to influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This has caused an increase in hospitalisation claims, which mirrors global trends.

“Covid-19 is still here but competing with influenza and RSV. So, we’re seeing the effect of these combined,” he says.

* Maleke is the editor of personal finance