NU Online News Service, May 23, 2005 12:00 P.M

As a whole, Americans are more anxious than they used to be about life-and-death issues, a new survey by an advertising agency finds.[@@]

The online “Life and Death” survey by JWT (formerly J. Walter Thompson), New York, found 79% believed they are more anxious than before about such issues. But only 16% felt they were up to contemplating the costs of old age and illness, 48% preferred to ignore such issues and 41% believed they are unable to afford the necessary level of insurance to take care of those concerns.

JWT surveyed 2,586 individuals online, balanced between women and men, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The study addressed the level of precautions, or lack thereof, by Americans about illness, accidents, old age and death.

It found 27% did not have health care insurance, and 33% lacked critical-illness coverage.

JWT also found 46% were short on coverage in cases of disability, 55% lacked coverage for care in residential homes with medical facilities and 35% did not have life insurance.

Consumers also appeared to be uninformed about the options available to them. The sample tended to be unfamiliar with many of the insurance products available to them such as second-to-die life insurance (68%), variable annuities (50%), universal life insurance (53%) and health savings accounts (38%).

Despite the numbers, however, 68% said they had made changes to improve their health and life expectancies in the last five years.

In addition, 61% expect to live longer and healthier lives than their parents did, and among those over age 60, 71% thought so. But 58% disagree that they want to live as long as is medically possible, whatever their state of health.

Marian Salzman, an executive vice president at JWT, attributes the results to the abstract nature of insurance to Americans. It “does very little to reduce their feelings of anxiety in the here and now,” Marian says. “Americans have long-term anxieties the insurance industry can help to address, provided the industry can figure out how to connect with people on today’s [fast-paced, instant-gratification] terms.”