Cancer tops causes of death in latest Canadian insurance study

by Leo Almazora03 Nov 2021

Cancer plays an outsized role in mortality among Canadians with individual life insurance, suggests recent research from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA).

In its recently published report on Canadian individual life experience for the policy year 2018-2019, the CIA analyzed data on policies reported by eight insurers, with more than half coming from Canada Life (23.4%), Manulife (20.9%), and Sun Life (16.8%).

The mortality study represents the 70th year the analysis was performed for individual life policies in Canada. Notably, it also marked the return of cause of death as a data point in the study, after that information was excluded from the data specifications for 2014-2018.

“Cause of death is particularly important for COVID-19,” wrote Bob Howard, FCIA and author of the report. “There are no deaths by that cause in this study, but it will be of interest in future studies.”

All in all, the latest data represented exposure across more than 9 million policies with a cumulative amount surpassing $1.8 trillion. Within that dataset, approximately 71,000 deaths were reported, with a cumulative amount of roughly $3.5 billion in death claims.

Among the more than 71,000 total deaths reported, a little over 27,000 were “no code” deaths, totalling more than $1.35 trillion in claims. Just over 18,000 were coded “other” or “unknown” – those summed up to approximately $733,000 in claims – which include cases where the company indicated it did not know the cause, or the cause reported is not covered by the 14 codes used by the CIA.

The 2018-2019 data included 12,360 deaths due to “malignant neoplasms,” a technical term referring to cancerous tumours. Those cases represented nearly half (48.1%) of the cases with an identified cause of death; from a claims perspective, they amounted to some $752,000 in death claims, which was 51.3% of claims for all deaths where the cause was identified.

Diseases of the heart, meanwhile, accounted for 5,486 deaths (21.4% of deaths with identified causes) and claims totalling roughly $277,000 (18.9% of claims for death cases with identified causes).

The rest of the deaths and claim amounts were spread out across 10 other line items, including accidents; influenza and pneumonia; liver disease and cirrhosis; assault; and intentional self-harm.

Some other significant observations made in the report were:

  • The downward trend in mortality appears to be continuing, except for female smokers;
  • There’s a strong correlation between policy size and mortality, with actual/expected ratios decreasing strongly with increasing face amount;
  • Actual/expected ratios for individual life policies with preferred underwriting and policies with non-preferred underwriting “are much closer together than one might have expected.”