Group Benefits trends – Mental health disability claims

November 11, 2021

For business owners, plan administrators, and sponsors

Mental health claims make up well over 30% of Manulife’s group disability claims in 2021.

That’s the largest segment of claims, but the trends in mental health claims have changed during the pandemic according to Cori Lawson-Roberts, Manulife’s Assistant Vice-President of Group Disability Innovation & Integrity.

“Depression claims went down, but anxiety claims went up,” Lawson-Roberts said. “That’s not surprising because the pandemic created a lot of anxiety.”

She said the rate of claims for major depression dropped, while claims for generalized anxiety jumped. But Manulife is seeing a return to pre-pandemic levels.

“We saw a 5% decrease in new mental health claims during the pandemic, but we are seeing a return to pre-pandemic levels and I expect a continued increase in this claiming pattern”, Lawson-Roberts said.

Lawson-Roberts expects to see post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims in the future.

“We know a lot of people working in health care and other frontline industries are really stressed. There’s a lot of burnout,” Lawson Roberts said. “We are going to see some PTSD claims, just like we did after the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) but to a greater extent.”

It’s not just the type of mental health challenge that’s changing. Lawson-Roberts said the claimant demographics are also changing.

“If you look at the age group of 26 to 35, we’ve seen it move up during the pandemic,” Lawson-Roberts said.

She said the number of claims for younger people have gone up by a few percent during the pandemic, and that could be because of their outlook on mental health.

“Younger people may be more open when it comes to their mental health. They’re not afraid to tell their boss that they’re stressed and need some time off. There’s less stigma, which is great,” Lawson-Roberts said. “That may translate into more claims from this age group.”

Lawson-Roberts also said there is a positive trend with claimants’ success in returning to work. She said Manulife saw an increase in mental health long-term disability claimants returning to work in 2021 compared to 2019.

“I think the increase in virtual care options during the pandemic may have helped,” Lawson-Roberts said. “And perhaps claimants face less stigma returning to a work-from-home environment than heading to an office where colleagues could ask more questions.”

You can find more information on employee mental health from Manulife’s 2020 Wellness Report.

Need help with your organization’s mental health strategy? Talk with your Manulife representative or send an email to our Health Management Services team.

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