Thursday, March 17, 2011

Risky Business

I've just signed up for a new life-insurance policy. What fun! And I'll bet you were waiting with bated breath* for that tidbit of news.

The reason I mention it is this: I had to fill out a form listing the sundry ways in which my life is at risk. I checked off the boxes that indicated current or past history of:
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes (Type II)
  • mild sleep apnea
  • depression
(Hey, I'm no spring chicken anymore.)

I anticipated that they would be concerned about the first four, especially the diabetes, which I've been told puts me at the same risk for a heart attack as someone who has already had a heart attack. (Eek!) I didn't expect them to grab onto the last one and get all anal about it.

I was wrong.

Yesterday, I received a letter asking for three pages of information about my history of depression. I was surprised for a couple of reasons.
  1. I presume that any life-insurance policy is void if the person covered commits suicide. (NOT that I'm suicidal, far from it! And that is, in large part, because I have sought and received effective treatment.)
  2. I would've thought that the diabetes was the biggest risk factor.
So, basically, I couldn't see what they were so concerned about. Unless ... depression increases the risk of premature death even apart from suicide. So I googled it, as any inquisitive person would.

Here's what I found at the (American) National Committee for Quality Assurance's page, "Focus on Depression."

In addition to the risk for suicide, depression is also associated with an increased risk of premature death from other causes (not self-inflicted), especially when depression occurs in combination with serious medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease. A study of poststroke depression demonstrated the effectiveness of treatment (i.e., antidepressants) in reducing the risk of death from stroke within a year from 64% to 32%. [Emphasis mine.] 
So that explains why the insurer wants to know more. Fair enough. 

Interesting, isn't it? Even with the knowledge that the site is funded by Pfizer, maker of the antidepressant Zoloft, the statistics are impressive and support my belief that untreated depression or mood disorders are greater risk factors and have a more detrimental effect on individuals and communities.
But it did make me wonder about how many people would be inclined to "white lie" on the insurance forms or to refrain from seeking help. It frustrates me, as I've mentioned before.

In any case, I'll submit the information and see what the insurer does with it. But wouldn't it be nice if the insurance company had simply asked, "Did you seek treatment? Was it effective?"

* Today's trivia: I originally wrote "baited breath," but then thought better of it. It turns out that, indeed, my original spelling was incorrect. Find the explanation here.

1 comment:

  1. I love you *because* you are no spring chicken!


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