Half of all new income protection claims could now be linked with stress, according to Norwich Union...
Half of all new income protection claims could now be linked with stress, according to Norwich Union Healthcare (NUH).
Nick Homer, income protection manager at NUH, said that rising stress levels were becoming a big concern for the insurer.
He said: "Some 30% of new claims are now for stress, anxiety and depression. Five years ago, it was around 20%. But we are also concerned that stress may be an underlying factor present in many other claims."
For example, back pain is now frequently associated with stress following the investigation of claims.
"We think stress is now an underlying cause in an additional 20% of claims, so up to 50% of claims could be linked to stress," Homer said.
However, small employers' attitudes to absence do not help alleviate the problem, he added. According to research by NUH, when asked how they handle absence most said that the work load was covered by the remaining staff, increasing their susceptibility to stress and stress-related health problems.
"We are keen to manage claims effectively so we do not have to increase premiums, but if claims costs rise we will have to," Homer said.
Rocketing occupational stress levels have also been confirmed by a recent report published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which estimates that there are five million workers suffering from high levels of stress at work, providing substantial evidence of how work affects both physical and mental health.
It also outlined an association between workers reporting that they were very stressed with poor mental health, back pain and smoking and drinking levels.
Commenting on the report, Elizabeth Gyngell, senior policy manager at HSE's health directorate, said: "The research confirms what a serious problem occupational stress is for the UK. We already knew from smaller studies that stress was probably our second biggest occupational health problem after back pain, but this research puts that beyond doubt.
"What is more, we can now be sure that how employers design jobs affects the mental and physical health of their employees. It also affects whether employees take sick leave."
But Andrew Chapman, managing director at Permanent Insurance, said that it is important not to exaggerate the link between high levels of occupational stress with mental health claims on income protection.
He said: "Stress is not recognised as an illness and so it is not an indicator of ability to work. We are seeing increases in the number of mental health claims, but whether this is caused by stress is debatable.
"A lot of mental health problems are not associated with stress."
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