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Head of Research and Development, Gareth Friedlander
Head of Research and Development, Gareth Friedlander

Press release -

​Discovery Life highlights the state of health in South Africa from its claims statistics

Discovery Life highlights the state of health in South Africa from its claims statistics

Health insights related to insurance claims in major South African cities

28 July 2016; Discovery Life published details of its life assurance claims from January 2015 to December 2015. A total of 19 591 claims were paid over the period, amounting to R2.8 billion.

Findings and statistics from Discovery Life’s claims experience in 2015

Unnatural deaths accounted for 21% of all claims in 2015.As many as 60% of Discovery Life claimants were older than 50 in the same period. For older clients, causes such as cancer and heart and artery conditions were more prevalent. Although the average cover level and cover for disability increased, many South Africans remain underinsured. It’s especially those who are younger than 40 who have a very high risk of being underinsured. This is validated by The South African Insurance gap in 2013, a True South study.

During this year, the oldest female claimant was 80 and claimed as a result of a stroke. The youngest female claimant was 33 and claimed as a result of cancer. Cancer and heart and artery related claims made up 59% of claims over the age of 50 during the year, with the highest prevalence of cancer seen in Gauteng, at 9% higher than the national average. Among female claimants between the ages of 31 and 60, breast cancer was the most prevalent. Among males prostate-, skin- and gastrointestinal-related cancers were the most prevalent causes for claims.

Both the oldest male claimant, 84, and the youngest, 23, died in motor vehicle accidents. Motor vehicle accidents caused the deaths of most of the younger clients and accounted for 50% of claims among clients under the age of 30. Deaths related to motor vehicle accidents have decreased since 2014. Motor vehicle accidents made up 9% of claims in 2015 compared to 11% of claims in 2014. Discovery Life is seeing the positive impact of driver behaviour change ‒ through participation in Vitalitydrive ‒ on claims statistics. Clients with a higher Vitalitydrive status are 50% less likely to be in a motor vehicle accident, and they significantly reduced the severity and cost of such accidents.

Cause for claims by region

Inland region had a 74% higher relative incidence of unnatural deaths compared to the national average.

The Cape and Gauteng: The main cause of death was cancer-related. The Cape had a lower incidence of heart- and artery-related deaths. This corresponds with the findings of the Vitality ObeCity Index, according to which Cape Town had the highest overall healthy weight status. However, The Cape area had the highest rate of permanent disability, at 14% above the national average.

Kwa-Zulu Natal: The main cause of death was heart- and artery-related conditions, which was 36% higher than the national average. This corresponds with the Vitality ObeCity Index, which found that Kwa-Zulu Natal had a 35% and higher incidence of heart and artery-related deaths compared with the national average. This region had a 36% lower incidence of permanent disability than the national average.

In 2015, Discovery Life policyholders received R600 million through the PayBack benefit. Since implementing the shared-value model, Discovery Life policyholders have received over R2 billion in PayBack benefits, and over R1.2 billion annually in premium discounts.

Claims from the Income Continuation Benefit

In 2015, Discovery Life paid out a total of R189 478 840 from its Income Continuation Benefit. Of this amount, 59% was for male claimants and 41% for female claimants. Males were found to have a 34% higher incidence of claims relating to the musculoskeletal system, and a 500% higher incidence of trauma claims.

Claims from the Severe Illness Benefit

Discovery Life paid a total of R573 823 762 in claims for severe illness. Males made up 62% of these claimants and females 38%.

Impact of Vitality on the Discovery Life’s claims experience and creating the “Diamond Zone”

Discovery Life has seen an increase in the life expectancy of its clients on a higher Vitality status. This increases was benchmarked against small regions around the world that have been shown to display extreme longevity. These regions have been titled “Blue Zones” and can be found in isolated regions in Costa Rica, Italy, Greece and Japan.

In order to determine the reasons for the extreme longevity displayed by the inhabitants of these regions, the scientists considered the relevant characteristics or behaviours shared by the different Blue Zone members. By considering these common characteristics, the chance to find more powerful explanatory variables for extreme longevity was increased. In these regions, people shared a similar diet, level of physical activity, family and social connection, limited stress, location and low smoking and obesity levels.

Gold and Diamond Vitality status members, representing the “Diamond Zone”, share similar lifestyle and behavioural traits as people living in Blue Zones. Among Gold and Diamond Vitality status members, males currently aged 60 are 14 times more likely to live be 100, and females 10 times more likely when compared with people who are not Vitality members.

“We are excited to see the positive outcomes of our shared-value model in our claims statistics. It’s especially the comparison between “Blue Zones” citizens and our policyholders in the “Diamond Zone” that are inspiring, epitomising the value Discovery Life is sharing as a business with our clients and society,” says the Head of Research and Development, Gareth Friedlander.


About Discovery Life

Discovery Life was launched in 2000 and is South Africa’s largest pure risk writer in South Africa in the intermediary channel.

It has captured over 29% of the South African protection market share (intermediated affluent) with over 800 000 individual and group policyholders.

It is the first South African insurer to separate risk from investment, leading significant change in the industry.

Discovery Life addresses the problem of underinsurance through its unique integrated operating model and through innovative product development.

For media queries or any further information, please contact;

Keenan Klizanie

Reputation Management Consultant

(c) +27 720134692

(T) +27 11 529 2138 



Discovery information

About Discovery Limited

Discovery Limited is a South African-founded financial services organisation that operates in the healthcare, life assurance, short-term insurance, savings and investment products and wellness markets. Founded in 1992, Discovery was guided by a clear core purpose – to make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives. Underpinning this core purpose is the belief that through innovation, Discovery can be a powerful market disruptor.

The company, with headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, has expanded its operations globally and currently serves over 5 million clients across South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Singapore and Australia. Discovery recently partnered with Generali, a leading insurer in Europe, and has partnered with John Hancock in the US. These new partnerships will bring Discovery’s shared-value business model to protection industries in Europe and the US.

Vitality, Discovery’s wellness programme, is the world’s largest scientific, incentive-based wellness solution for individuals and corporates. The global Vitality membership base now exceeds three million lives in five markets.

Discovery is an authorised financial services provider and trades under the code “DSY” on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange. 

Follow us on Twitter @Discovery_SA


Felicity Hudson

Felicity Hudson

Press contact Head of Reputation Management Discovery Group 0115294514
Nthabiseng Chapeshamano

Nthabiseng Chapeshamano

Press contact Senior Reputation Manager Invest, Cogence, Long & Short Term Insurance, and Sustainability
Zeenat Moorad

Zeenat Moorad

Press contact Senior Reputation Manager Banking | Vitality | Sponsorships
Karishma Jivan

Karishma Jivan

Press contact Reputation Consultant Healthcare & Sustainability
Sesona Ngqakamba

Sesona Ngqakamba

Press contact Reputation Management Consultant Banking | Vitality | Sponsorships
Lianne Osterberger

Lianne Osterberger

Press contact Special Projects: Reputation Management 083 27 27 313