AIG sees surge in mental health help

Wednesday 5 May 2021

  • Lockdown has increased mental health awareness and associated actions
  • AIG’s free Smart Health service has seen mental health support leap
  • More than half of demand is among 18-35s


Data1 and research2 from UK life insurer AIG Life Limited reveals there is growing demand for private services to help people suffering mental health issues – and young people in particular are seeking help.

AIG’s own experience is that demand is rising for mental health help among members of group risk schemes via its wellbeing service. Smart Health by AIG, a digital healthcare service delivered by global telehealth provider Teladoc Health and available to AIG Life customers and group scheme members 24/7, has seen demand for appointments with mental health psychologists leap in the first three months of the year – when the UK was lockdown due to COVID-19.

Over 350 people have had more than 900 mental health consultations via Smart Health between January and March – equal to over half (52%) of the demand that the private psychology service saw in the whole of 2020.

Mental health is considered an important contributor to long-term physical wellbeing, which is why UK life insurer AIG provides access to four mental health support and therapy sessions from specialists, including psychologists, as part of the service provided to individuals and employees covered by group protection insurance schemes.

AIG’s concern is that higher demand for mental health support through non-NHS services, like Smart Health, is an indication of the impact that coronavirus is having on the mental health of the UK population.


Lee Lovett, Managing Director, Group Protection at AIG Life, commented: 

'Rarely has the threat of disease occupied so much of our thinking. We have become conditioned and reliant upon maintaining social distancing, on avoiding contact and planning our journeys within a demarcated boundary as a protective measure. But now on the cusp of reintegration, many will have been psychologically scarred by the fear and worry of the pandemic.'

'This will have left people’s emotional resilience for coping with the new thought of contact risks significantly reduced. This could manifest as fears for the commute, for sitting in the office space, for venturing into built up heavily populated areas again, and leaving behind the one constant that has provided security – home. We should expect that people are going to feel anxiety and need mental health support.'


Remote help most sought among young

Usage data also shows younger people and women are most likely to ask for help. Over half (57%) of those seeking Smart Health mental health and psychologist consultations are aged 18-35 and 5% are under 18, while 63% of psychology service appointments are for women1.

Smart Health’s six health and wellbeing services are also available to customers’ and employees’ partners and children up to the age of 21 for a range of issues including anxiety, low mood and depression.


Training is in demand

Research commissioned by AIG Life after lockdown in 2020 also found one in four (25%) of adults want some form of training on how to help others and identify the signs of mental health issues in themselves as the impact of coronavirus restrictions increased stress across the UK2.

The research found one in three people (31%) have taken action on mental health issues during lockdown either for themselves or others –19% have taken action to help themselves and 12% have helped others. Under-25s are most likely to address issues with 36% taking action personally and 17% helping others.

AIG Life believes the research highlights a greater openness about discussing mental health and willingness by individuals to take action when someone is in need of help.


Help for employees

Some employers are already addressing the need for training, the study found, with around one in five (18%) of employees saying they’ve had training through work while another 13% say they’ve taught themselves over the internet.

Employees in particular turned to Smart Health for help as members of group risk schemes provided by employers make up 61% of its users.


Alison Esson, Propositions Manager at AIG Life, commented:

'Attitudes to mental health have changed massively, especially in the last year, and people are much more aware of the risks to themselves and others.'

'It is encouraging to see that employers are providing mental health training at work but clearly there is a demand among people for help in identifying their own personal issues.'

'Doing it yourself is commendable but people should be aware that there is support out there – and they should take advantage of the expertise that is already available.'


1 Smart Health by AIG usage data compiled by Teladoc Health to 31st March 2021

2 Research conducted by Consumer Intelligence among a representative sample of 986 adults aged 18-plus between 28th and 31st August 2020