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Why you need to ensure travel insurance declarations include mental health conditions

We know we need to declare physical conditions and medications when we’re looking for travel insurance, but how many of us think about notifying insurers of mental health issues? Or are even sure what constitutes such a condition?

According to AllClear, a specialist medical travel insurance provider, many older travellers aren’t declaring mental health issues and may therefore be travelling without full cover.

The company says it’s finding that only 2% of people over 75 declare mental health conditions, while 5% of 65-74 year olds and 10% of 55-64 year olds make similar declarations. Yet 17% of under 55s declare mental health issues.

That’s a pretty significant difference between older and younger travellers.

It’s even more significant given that the NHS reports that older people are more likely to be living with mental health conditions than younger people. NHS England says that depression alone affects one in five over-65s and the Mental Health Foundation agrees, noting that depression and anxiety are highest among those aged 50-59 and 80 years or older.

Why do mental health declarations for travel insurance matter?

The problem is that failing to declare can potentially invalidate a policy in the event of a claim. So while we may believe that we and are family and friends are travelling with full insurance, the lack of a full declaration may invalidate any claim should anything go wrong.

Why aren’t older people declaring mental health conditions?

AllClear suggests that people are traditionally less comfortable talking about their mental health and this can be a problem when seeking travel insurance.

The good news is that in the wider world mental health is increasingly a talking point. The number of people living with depression, dementia and other issues is being recognised and the UK government has committed funds to mental healthcare.

But amongst some segments of the population there’s still a reticence about admitting to mental health conditions. AllClear CEO Chris Rolland says: “While it seems the subject of mental health is losing its stigma for younger generations, the challenge remains in ensuring all age groups understand that mental health conditions need to be declared when taking out travel insurance.”

He argues: “We need to start talking about mental health more, and the industry needs to do more to ensure people know where to find specialist insurance.”

Which conditions should be declared to the potential insurer?

The range of mental health conditions that should be declared is surprising. It includes insomnia, learning difficulties and night-time terrors.

The key is whether they have been diagnosed by a medical professional.

AllClear believes there are 30 conditions that should be declared, including, but not limited to:

  • Aerophobia
  • Agoraphobia
  • Anxiety
  • Asperger syndrome
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Autism
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Breath holding
  • Claustrophobia
  • Conversion disorder
  • Depression
  • Depression in post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Eating disorder
  • Gilles de la Tourette syndrome
  • Hypersomnia
  • Insomnia
  • Intellectual disability
  • Landau Kleffner syndrome
  • Learning difficulty
  • Night time terrors

What to declare if you’re not sure

The advice is to declare everything.

It is, says AllClear, the only way to ensure comprehensive cover is in place if cancellation or a medical emergency while abroad arises.

If the traveller is applying online, they may need help to ensure they have picked out all the right conditions as they fill in the form. If they’re struggling to find a condition in the options available or they’re not sure if it needs to be declared, there should be a phone number or a chat assistant that can help.

Time to review mental health and travel insurance

The AllClear research follows the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute’s call for the Financial Conduct Authority to review travel insurance pricing and availability for those with mental illness.

Chris Rolland argues that mental illness is treated no differently to any other condition: “The issue is not with availability of travel insurance, but with a need for better signposting to specialist insurers.“

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This article was published in November 2018.

Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

Words by Kathy Lawrence

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