Mental health conditions are widespread in Canada: 1 in 5 Canadians will deal with one in any given year, and by the time they reach age 40, half of all Canadians will have struggled with mental health issues. As the most common mental health diagnoses, anxiety disorders and clinical depression eventually play a role in almost everyone’s life, either as someone who has one of these conditions or as a close friend or family member.
Despite the prevalence of these conditions, people who live with them face significant challenges when they shop for life insurance.
What are the obstacles to getting life insurance if you live with a mental health condition? What does the law have to say about this? What options do consumers have? We tackle each of these questions below.
How does your mental health affect your life insurance purchase?
People living with mental health conditions are sometimes surprised and distressed to find that their application for coverage has been denied. This not only leaves them without coverage, but it opens the door to other issues:
- They might decide not to disclose their diagnosis, which may invalidate their policy and cause other legal and financial issues.
- If they haven’t received a diagnosis or undergone treatment, they might put off talking to a doctor or therapist. The consequences of that could be dangerous and even life-threatening.
- The added stress could easily make their depression or anxiety worse.
What legal protections do people with mental health conditions have?
The short answer is ‘it’s complicated.’
The Canadian Human Rights Act (1977)3 protects Canadians from discrimination by federally regulated companies on several grounds, including mental disability. Depression and anxiety are leading causes of disability worldwide and qualify as a disability in many Canadian contexts.
But the Act says that companies don’t have to undergo ‘undue hardship’ to accommodate people with disabilities; therefore, insurance companies can legally turn down applications by people with anxiety or depression. According to Vicki Zhang, associate professor of statistics at the University of Toronto: ‘The private insurance sector has become very competitive. From their bottom-line perspective, it makes sense for them not to cover someone with mental illness, especially a known condition.’
So, what are the options for people with mental health conditions?
- Living without life insurance is the most obvious solution, but it leaves your family without a safety net if you pass away unexpectedly. This can result in significant hardship and uncertainty for them.
- Contesting the insurance company’s decision if you have the time and resources. If you’re set on a particular insurance provider and want them to reconsider your application, you might challenge their decision. The downside is that it will take time, and you may need a lawyer’s help for this. But there’s a possibility the company might re-examine their policies and make changes for the people who follow you.
- Finding insurance that doesn’t discriminate on these grounds, for example, a plan that doesn’t require a medical exam or questionnaire.
What is no-medical life insurance?
No-medical life insurance is precisely what it sounds like: life insurance that doesn’t require a medical exam and doesn’t ask you questions about your medical conditions or history. It’s an excellent option for all sorts of people, including:
- People with pre-existing conditions, including mental health ones.
- People who fear or distrust medical institutions, doctors, or needles.
- Workers with jobs that carry a risk of injuries, such as miners, farmers, and high-wire electrical workers.
- People who need insurance right away.
You may be surprised to find that there are highly reputable Canadian companies that offer no-medical life insurance options, and that their rates are very reasonable. They provide quick quotes to see if their products are right for you. Of course, each insurance provider will have different plans available, so you’ll still want to do your research and weigh all your options.
Depression and anxiety are serious conditions that can make every decision much more challenging, and every obstacle seem that much larger. Worrying about your family’s protection can add more stress to an already stressful time. No-medical life insurance can lift some of that burden and allow you to focus on more important things. Take care of yourself by looking into your options today.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.