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The most critical risks South Africans face today

Press release -

The most critical risks South Africans face today

Discovery Life has released its 2018 claims statistics and the numbers tell a compelling story about the risks South Africans in different age groups face today.

Discovery Life’s 2018 claims data has revealed the major risks Discovery Life members across different age groups faced in 2018.

Unnatural causes continue to be the predominant reason for death claims, among people under the age of 30. Last year, the leading causes of unnatural deaths were motor vehicle accidents (35%), suicide (32%), other accidents (17%) and crime (16%). In 2018, Discovery paid out R4.2 billion in claims, while R4.3 billion has been paid in PayBack and Cash Conversion payouts since Discovery Life’s launch in 2000.

Young people under 30 face more unnatural risks

“Sadly, trauma and unnatural deaths still cause the bulk of our young clients’ life claims,” says Dr Maritha van der Walt, Chief Medical Officer for Discovery Life.

Since 2013, the leading causes of death in clients under 30 have been suicide and trauma, comprising 69% of life claims. Of those claims, 43% were a result of vehicle accidents.

In 2018, Discovery Life’s youngest female claimant was only 28 when she died from a motorbike accident. “Young adults are out on the roads, sometimes late at night,” Dr Van der Walt says. “Late night driving poses a higher risk for accidents.”

Members in their thirties (millennials) are living well

The good news is that members between the ages of 31 and 40 are at a lower risk of dying prematurely from heart-related conditions. When compared to claims from 2013 to 2015, heart and artery claims have lowered significantly over the past three years among millennials. During this timeframe, Discovery Life has seen these clients’ heart and artery:

  • Death claims drop by 7%
  • Capital disability claims lower by 19%
  • Severe illness claims decrease by 10%
  • Income continuation benefit claims reduce by 33%.

“We hope that the decrease in heart and artery claims is owing to people engaging in Vitality, living healthier lives and going for their screening tests. We know that clients with higher Vitality statuses have fewer claims across the board,” Dr Van der Walt explains.

Suicide and depression on the rise in middle age

While people in their thirties seem to have reduced some of their risks, members between 41 and 50 are struggling with suicide and depression, especially when you compare the information with the entire client base:

Members between 41 and 50 All age groups
Over the last two years, suicide claims increased by 17%. Over the same period, suicide claims increased by 8%.
Over the last two years, capital disability claims for mental and behavioural problems increased by 22%. Since 2014, capital disability claims for mental and behavioural problems have decreased by 30%.

“Sadly, mental health problems and suicides are increasing worldwide,” Dr Van der Walt says.

In responding to this, Discovery will be adding mental wellbeing as a personalised health goal for the first time in 2020.

Older people experience more breast, prostate and skin cancer

“In our older clients we see more disease-related claims – strokes, cancers, heart attacks and so on,” Dr Van der Walt explains. Cancer is the leading cause of female severe illness claims, with breast cancer accounting for 46% of cancers among female Discovery Life clients.

Women of all ages are at risk of developing breast cancer. However, over the last four years, it has been the leading type of cancer (49%) in women between the ages of 51 and 60. During this time, severe illness claims for breast cancer increased by 9% in the last two years.

While men are more likely to pass away from heart and artery conditions, cancer is the second leading cause of death. Prostate cancer is most prevalent and accounts for over 31% of male cancers in all age groups and 38% of male cancers in the 41-to-50 age bracket. Severe illness claims for prostate cancer have increased by 27% in the last two years.

On the upside, claims for skin cancer in this age bracket have decreased over the last three years for both men (11%) and women (29%).

People over 60 need financial certainty going into retirement

Last year, the oldest male claimant died of cancer at 86 while the oldest female claimant had a heart attack at 88. People in this age category face a significant risk of disability, which may impede their income if they’re not properly insured.

In 2018, more than 40% of clients over the age of 60 who claimed from their Income Continuation Benefit were permanently disabled

The Discovery Life claims trends highlight the importance of getting life cover to protect yourself and your family during all stages of life and that living a healthy, active lifestyle can make a difference.

Note to Editors: 

This release is meant only as information and should not be taken as financial advice. For tailored financial advice, please contact your financial adviser. Discovery Life Limited. Registration number 966/003901/06, is a registered long-term insurer, and an authorised financial services and registered credit provider, NCR registration number NCRCP3555. Product rules, terms and conditions apply.



Discovery information

About Discovery

Discovery Limited is a South African-founded financial services organisation that operates in the healthcare, life assurance, short-term insurance, savings and investment and wellness markets. Since inception, Discovery has been guided by a clear core purpose – to make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives. This has manifested in its globally recognised Vitality Shared-Value insurance model, exported to over 19 countries and reaching over 11 million members. Discovery trades on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange, with a market cap of $7 billion.

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 Senior Reputation Management Consultant Healthcare & Sustainability
Sesona Ngqakamba

Sesona Ngqakamba

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

Lianne Osterberger

Press contact Senior Manager: Media Relations and Reputation Management 083 27 27 313
Hannah Newbold

Hannah Newbold

Press contact Reputation Management Consultant Insure & Invest