Rising demand for mental health, life insurance drives growth at AIA

AIA is currently the only insurance company in Singapore that offers a critical illness plan covering up to five mental illnesses.
AIA is currently the only insurance company in Singapore that offers a critical illness plan covering up to five mental illnesses.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The Covid-19 pandemic has spurred many Singaporeans into thinking more seriously about getting their mental health and well-being insured, AIA Singapore chief executive Wong Sze Keed told The Straits Times in a recent interview.

"Covid-19 has created more awareness of the need to build mental resilience," Ms Wong said, adding that the coronavirus outbreak has prompted people to take a closer look at their medical needs and insurance coverage.

Renewed demand has helped to drive new business growth for AIA in the first half of this year after sales dipped at the onset of the pandemic.

AIA is currently the only insurance company in Singapore that offers a critical illness plan covering up to five mental illnesses: major depressive disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and Tourette's syndrome.

The plan was launched in 2019, but Covid-19 has created new interest and demand for mental health coverage as more people are struggling to cope with anxiety and other psychological issues, Ms Wong said.

The number of mental health assessments done under an AIA wellness and prevention plan has risen by more than 15 per cent this year across Asia, the company said.

According to preliminary findings from a study by the Institute of Mental Health released last month, about 13 per cent of more than 1,000 participants reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic.

Close to 82 per cent of the respondents also said they would seek professional help if they were to develop any emotional or psychological problems related to Covid-19.

According to the report, the top five sources from which people would ask for help were general practitioners or family doctors, counsellors, polyclinic doctors, psychiatrists, and religious or spiritual advisers.

Of the remaining respondents who said they would not seek professional help, 22 per cent said it was too costly.

Ms Wong said AIA Singapore has long had a focus on insuring health and wellness to "help people live healthier, longer, better lives" and was able to tap that demand for further growth.

When the pandemic struck last year, the insurance company was able to roll out programmes to support its staff and corporate customers psychologically. The now quarterly programme has been extended to 1.2 million members of the Singapore workforce, or one in every three people employed.


AIA Singapore chief executive Wong Sze Keed said that the insurance company has long had a focus on insuring health and wellness to "help people live longer, better lives". PHOTO: AIA SINGAPORE

This year, AIA expanded its teleconsultation services to include sessions with psychologists and will soon launch an app allowing staff who are stressed or depressed to engage with a live coach and improve their mental well-being.

On the whole, the pandemic has created more awareness about the importance of health and life coverage.

"People are generally underinsured. They don't buy enough to cover critical illness and other medical needs," Ms Wong said.

With the number of Covid-19 cases rising, people have also grown more concerned about getting enough coverage in case they are hospitalised and ensuring that their loved ones are cared for in the event of death, she said.

AIA Singapore reported a 32 per cent year-on-year increase in value of new business to US$176 million (S$238 million) in the first half of 2021, the company said in a statement last month. Operating profit after tax was up 8 per cent over the period.

As a whole, Singapore's life insurance industry garnered $2.68 billion in weighted new business premiums for the first six months of this year, spiking 61 per cent over the same period in 2020, according to data by the Life Insurance Association (LIA).

A total of 2.85 million lives - or about 70 per cent of Singapore residents - are now protected by Integrated Shield Plans and riders that provide coverage on top of MediShield Life, the LIA said.