Excessive eating, drinking and spending can all add up to a stressful start to the year. So it's no surprise that #bluemonday, reportedly the most depressing day of the year, falls in this month.
But the new year can also mean a fresh start and a time to plan and set goals, with health and fitness normally top of the list. You only have to look at the success of social media stars like Joe Wicks aka 'the body coach' who now has over 1m followers across social media and whose book sales have exceeded Delia Smith!1
While no-one is going to argue with the benefits of being health conscious, it's worth remembering that good health doesn't always come with a guarantee.
For people who suffer from mental health problems, the hangover from Christmas combined with January bleakness, can often compound ill health. It's a growing issue with an estimated 1 in 4 people experiencing mental health problems at some point in their life, causing over 70 million working days to be lost each year.2
Government statistics reveal as many as 960,000 employees are on sick leave for a month or more each year leading to £4billion a year in lost earnings. It's also estimated that 300,000 people a year fall out of work and into the welfare system because of health-related issues.3
Numbers like these have obvious pressure on public finances explaining the shrinking state support as we've seen with the reduction in employment and support allowance (ESA), the move to Universal Credit and changes to support with mortgage interest.
The advice opportunity for income protection is huge. In a 'Which' survey, just 9% said they have some form of income protection, compared with 41% who have life insurance and 16% who have private medical insurance (PMI). And, according to research by Unum and Personnel Today, just 12% of employers support their staff for more than a year if they're off sick from work. Given the low level of state benefits available, everyone of working age should consider income protection.4
Income protection is not as straightforward as life cover or critical illness cover due to the interaction with state benefits. But, as Which states, "the one protection product every working adult in the UK should consider is the very one most of us don't have – income protection."
So, why the low take up? The types of barriers you're likely to come up against can fall broadly into three areas:
Most people don't realise how little support they would get from their employer and the Government if they couldn't work or the impact the loss of income would have on their household and lifestyle. Lack of awareness and understanding puts this quite far down the list of household priorities with purchases like broadband taking priority.5
Claims evidence can be valuable in addressing consumer trust issues and demonstrating the value of protection. With 90% of 2014 income protection claims being successful, totalling payouts of £3.2m, our evidence can help to illustrate this. Also, services such as Helping Hand, which offer support with rehabilitation even when no claim's being made, can also help to build trust by showing how providers are thinking beyond just a financial pay out.
Everyone is different. What we need, what we can afford and what protection plan is right depends on the life we lead. But a little protection is better than nothing and with menu plans now offering enhanced flexibility such as wider deferral period options and limited payment periods, there's a way to make income protection more affordable for all.
Find out about our Income Protection.
1 Evening Times –January 2016
2 Centre for Economics and Business Research –October 2015
3 Department of Work and Pensions – February 20
5 Scottish Widows Protection Report 2015
Amanda joined the Royal London Marketing team in April 2015 and has 18 years’ experience in marketing and communications roles across the financial, media and professional services sectors. She has a passion for writing and enjoys working on high profile campaigns. Outside of work, Amanda loves to travel and has recently completed a three month trip across South America.