Depression is one of the insurance agent’s worst enemies.
This painful mental health disorder can affect the underwriting process for life insurance, disability insurance, and many other medically underwritten products.
Researchers at the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recently posted a new batch of survey data that shows where depression hits the hardest.
(Related: Simple Medicine)
You can use the BRFSS portal system to see how depression is affecting different types of people in every state in the country. The federal government publishes the data free from copyright restrictions. That means you can extract data yourself and put the numbers in blog posts, social media posts, infographics or even ads.
“Depression” is a condition that may cause feelings of sadness, or a loss of interest in activities people once enjoyed.
Of course, everyone has down days. But suffering from depression is about more than having a few down days. Depression is a serious medical illness that can keep people from working, and it may make the effects of other disabling conditions, such as chronic pain or heart disease, worse.
Insurance underwriters pay a great deal of attention to information about the kinds of treatments for depression that applicants have received.
Prudential Financial, for example, provides agents with a detailed underwriting guide on depression and anxiety disorders. The guide lists the factors used to classify an applicant’s condition and treatment methods. The guide also explains how underwriting considerations for mood and anxiety disorders can affect a client’s table rating, or lead to a declined application.
What Can You Do for Clients Who Have Wrestled With Depression?
Redbird Advisors, an insurance marketing services company, has suggested the following approach, in a commentary on working with life applicants who have a history of anxiety and depression:
Identify the diagnosis date.
Determine the type of disorder.
Understand the cause.
Get a list of the applicant’s medications.
Ask about hospitalizations.
Ask about suicide.
Review lifestyle restrictions.
Going through this process takes more time than helping a client with a standard-risk applications, but spending that time can help clients find the right coverage.
How Common Is Depression?
CDC researchers reported in a 2014 brief, based on survey data collected from 2009 through 2012, that 7.6% of Americans aged 12 and over had moderate or severe depression in the two-week period before they took the survey.
The new BRFSS depression numbers come from a wave of surveys conducted in 2016. The survey team asked participants whether they had ever been told they had a form of depression.
About 17% of the participants said they had been told that they had some form of depression at some point in their lives.
How Often Might Depression Affect Your Clients?
People who apply for medically underwritten insurance products tends to have higher income levels and more education than people in the general population have. In some cases, they may be less likely to have certain kinds of health problems than members of the general population.
For this article, we broke out the data for college-educated survey participants, to try to get statistics for people who might be more like typical life insurance or disability insurance applicants.
You can see the database we used to generate the data here. With the help of the CDC’s Chronic Disease Indicators data filtering system, you can extract many different kinds of data from the database, and break it out in many different ways.
For all college-educated 2016 BRFSS participants in all 50 states, the median reported prevalence of depression was about 14%. The reported prevalence at the state level ranged from a low of about 9%, in New Jersey, to more than 20% in one state.
For a look at the 10 states with the worst reported prevalence levels for depression among adults with college degrees, read on.
Rhode Island: 16.9%
New Hampshire: 17.02%
West Virginia: 17.3%
—Read Programs Can Keep Depression From Pushing Up Disability Costs on ThinkAdvisor.