The tabloids are full of articles about boomer clients who had it all, and more, and lost it all because of behavioral health problems such as depression or alcoholism.
What if boomer advisors borrowed an idea from group health insurers and started screening clients for signs of depression, anxiety or other conditions that could lead to loss of income, irrational decisions about finances or an endless stream of unproductive calls to the advisor’s office?
The behavioral health units at companies such as Aetna Inc., Hartford, and CIGNA Corp., Philadelphia, are starting to create opportunities to screen plan members who file big health claims or disability claims for behavioral health problems.
Aetna, for example, is starting to use a short questionnaire to assess the mental health of plan members who suffer from chronic illness. The company is giving the screening test to about 100,000 chronically ill health plan members each year, according to Dr. Hyong Un, national medical director at Aetna’s behavioral health unit.
The patients who have taken the test include tens of thousands of baby boomers. Aetna has found that about 19% of the chronically ill patients suffer from depression, compared with a depression rate of about 5% for the general population.
Many of the boomers with behavioral health problems suffer from mild depression, severe depression or alcoholism.
At least one study seems to indicate that, for the boomer generation, the peak period for depression may have shifted from the 30s to sometime between 45 to 64, Un says.
The boomer group is an interesting population group, because many boomers are just starting to notice the high blood pressure, diabetes and other lifestyle-related illnesses that eventually could lead to congestive heart failure and heart attacks, Un says. “People in that age group can still make a lifestyle change,” he adds.
But, if a boomer is depressed or suffering from untreated anxiety, the boomer is “probably not as likely to follow the recommended treatment regiment,” Un says.