07Jun17

SCOR Live Blog

Life

Mortality trends in the US: differences between the insured population and the general population

At SCOR’s Life & Health division in the Americas, Mary Bahna-Nolan, Executive Vice President, Head of Life R&D, and David Wylde, Director, Actuary - Experience Analysis, analyze the latest release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding current trends in US population mortality. They compare the data with SCOR’s portfolio, and discuss the differences between the country’s insured population and the general population.

The US health protection agency, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), regularly issues news releases regarding current trends in US population mortality. 
 
In June of 2016, articles in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal cited new CDC data from 2015 which showed a rise in the US mortality rate. The data revealed that there was a decrease in mortality by heart disease, cancer, stroke and pneumonia, but an increase in death by unintentional injuries, suicide, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic liver disease and hypertension. 
 
How does the data for the insured population diverge from that of the general population in the US?
Our industry’s extensive underwriting process tends to select risks that are generally in much better health than the average individual in the US population. Individuals in the insured population tend to be in a higher socio-economic class with access to better health care and living conditions and generally make healthier lifestyle choices. For example, the insured population has a lower percentage of tobacco/smoker risks than the general population.
In 2016, JAMA (a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to medical research) published an article discussing the correlation between life expectancy and income in the US. The authors stated that “between 2001 and 2014, individuals in the top five percent of the income distribution gained around three years of life expectancy, whereas individuals in the bottom five percent experienced no gains”.
 
As more companies broaden their focus to increase penetration in the middle income market, there will likely be a shift in the drivers of insured mortality towards that of the general population. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to population trends.