Why suffering from ‘illness denial’ could leave you with financial problems

If you’ve never taken any financial protection because you think these things ‘will never happen to you’, you’re not alone.

New research has found that Britain is living in ‘illness denial’, with more than half of us believing we will not suffer from any of the three most common causes of death in our lifetime.

Serious illness can leave you with financial problems at a time where you don’t need any more stress. Keep reading to find out more about this research and why you should be thinking carefully about protecting yourself in case you become seriously ill.

Brits living in ‘illness denial’

A new study of 3,000 people by AIG Life has found that 54% assume they will not suffer from any of the three most common causes of death during their lifetime. This is despite 77% of respondents saying that they would experience financial problems if they developed a serious illness in the next six months.

The research suggests as many as 18.3 million people are in ‘illness denial’, with more than a quarter of those questioned (26%) saying they would encounter ‘significant’ financial trouble if they became critically ill. A third said that they would need to rely on friends and family for financial support if they suffered a serious illness later in life.


The study found that just 22% of people said they expected to be affected by cancer in their lifetime, meaning 14.2 million people in the UK are living with ‘cancer denial’.

The reality is that Cancer Research UK reports that there are more than 360,000 new cases of cancer in the UK every year. And, 38% of them are preventable through lifestyle changes, meaning people living in denial are potentially not making the changes they need to avoid a diagnosis later in life.

Heart disease

17% said they believed they would be affected by heart disease. This is despite British Heart Foundation figures that show that more than a quarter (28%) of all deaths in the UK are caused by heart disease – equivalent to one death every three minutes.


Just 7% of adults said they thought a stroke would happen to them. In reality, strokes are the leading cause of both death and disability in the UK, according to NHS data.

Debbie Bolton, Head of Underwriting and Claims Strategy at AIG Life, says: “Illness denial is understandable as nobody wants to think about the worst happening to them and we all like to believe it won’t be us or our loved ones.

“Taking a realistic and practical approach to the risk of illness and the need for financial protection will help us all to plan for the future. If we also take steps to improve our lifestyle we can move into our later years in good health.”

What Critical Illness Cover can do for you

The facts regarding the chances of you contracting a critical illness are sobering:

  • One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime
  • One in seven men, and one in 12 women in the UK die from coronary heart disease
  • Someone is admitted to a UK hospital with a heart attack every five minutes
  • In England, one in six people will have a stroke in their lifetime

If you were to experience one of these serious health conditions, how would you cope? You may have to be off work for an extended period while you recover. You may need specialist care or treatment. You may also be unable to return to your previous job.

Of course, during this time you’ll probably still have financial commitments. You might have a mortgage or rent to pay. You may have a family to support. Or, you may simply have bills to meet.

Critical Illness Cover can give you the peace of mind that you’ll receive financial support on the diagnosis of a serious health condition. This type of cover pays a tax-free lump sum on diagnosis of any of a list of around 100 specified serious illnesses, including cancer, heart attack or stroke, and certain disabilities.

Many insurers also provide cover for your children until they’re 18 at no extra cost. You’ll typically be able to claim up to 25% or 50% of the sum assured if your child is diagnosed with a condition covered under your policy.

The cost of Critical Illness Cover can depend on a variety of factors including:

  • Your age
  • Your state of health – for example, cover is likely to be more expensive if you have existing conditions or a large BMI
  • Whether you smoke or vape
  • Family history of illness, particularly if a relative died young
  • How much cover you need

If you’re considering this cover, it’s important that you fully disclose your medical history when completing your proposal form. If you come to claim and it emerges that you didn’t declare a condition, your insurer could refuse to pay your claim.

Around 92% of critical illness claims are paid, according to the Association of British Insurers, and this rises to 96% for cancer claims.

Read Glenn’s story

Glenn Charles, a self-employed baker, recently shared his story with The Observer.

In January 2018, Glenn was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus after a routine check-up. As he ran his own business he was concerned about how his family would cope financially, but he had been wise enough to take out Critical Illness Cover ten years previously.

Glenn says: “A cancer diagnosis is one of the most stressful and frightening things you can experience. Knowing my cancer could be removed and that my insurance had paid out, so my family was secure were the two things that helped me sleep at night.”

If you’re looking for advice on getting the right protection for you, we can help. Email enquire@london-money.co.uk or call (0207) 808 4120 to find out more.