Married Americans generally agree that life insurance is important, but a large majority shy away from talking about the topic with their spouses.

State Farm Life, Bloomington, Ill., discusses couples’ reluctance to discuss life insurance in a report on a recent survey of 1,001 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

About 62% of the survey respondents said life insurance is now more important to them than it was 2 years ago, before the economic downturn began.

Despite that, 74% said they rarely or never discuss life insurance, mainly because of economic pressure, and partly because of a reluctance to bring up the topic of an untimely death with one’s spouse or partner.

Primary earners find the topic especially difficult to bring up, and some said talking about the topic could cause partners to react negatively. Nearly half of the respondents said bringing up the need for life insurance when a partner loses a job could worsen feelings throughout the family.

Women may be more reticent to discuss being the sole breadwinner, with 64% saying they would be too stressed to initiate a conversation about the topic with their

spouse. Conversely, only 47% of the men said they would find the topic to be too difficult to bring up.

“Today, more Americans are struggling with job losses, pay cuts and other financial setbacks,” says Professor Mary Quist-Newins, State Farm Life Insurance chair for Women and Finance at the American College. “These factors amplify feelings of anxiety and create a greater need to ensure the security of loved ones. Women in particular appear to be especially silent on this topic and this is troubling when increasing numbers of women are becoming primary income earners for their families.”

The results of the State Farm Life survey come on the heels of a report from LIMRA, Windsor, Conn., that revealed that nearly one third of U.S. households have no life insurance at all. The uninsured level is the highest it has been in at least 40 years; LIMRA researchers found that cost is a significant factor in the decision to not buy life insurance.

When the pollsters conducting the State Farm survey asked consumers to choose from a list of possible descriptions of their current financial situation, only 39% of the consumers said they were working to grow what they have to achieve their financial dreams. About 52% said they were merely working to protect what they currently have.

“This survey shows that, at a time when couples should be sitting down to discuss how to prepare for the unexpected, far too many remain silent,” says Joe Monk, chief administrative officer of State Farm Life Insurance. “As awkward as it can be to discuss the potential death of a family member, an uncomfortable discussion today can prevent a devastating financial impact tomorrow.”