South African men are far more likely to commit suicide than women, according to the 2020 claim statistics from Momentum Life, which were released this week.
However, despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, suicides were down by 39% overall for the year.
At a presentation on the claims figures, it was revealed that Momentum’s 2020 claims payouts were the highest to date – at R5.5 billion. The top three causes of death claims remained relatively stable from the previous year: cancer, cardiovascular disease and unnatural deaths, such as suicide and accidents.
George Kolbe, head of life insurance marketing at Momentum Life, said it was gratifying to see that suicide claims had decreased by 39% year-on-year. “Despite having an incredibly challenging and unpredictable year, suicide is not on the rise, and I think that speaks a lot to the resilience that people have found within themselves, and the support that has come out around us all be it from family, friends and colleagues.”
He said this could also have resulted from a combination of the fact that 2019 was an exceptionally high year for suicides, and that we saw a temporary decrease in suicides during the most severe lockdown levels in 2020. After lockdown was lifted, the numbers returned to expected levels.
However, Kolbe said one of the most worrying aspects of Momentum Life’s suicide statistics is that 85% were men.
“We have to start looking inward to understand why it is that men are far more likely to commit suicide. If we can start recognising the signs, and provide the support that they need then maybe we can make a difference.”
According to statistics from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, South African men are four times more likely to commit suicide than South African women. This is corroborated in the Momentum statistics.
Typically, suicide has been seen as a particularly sensitive topic for aggrieved families, as some life insurance policies tend to exclude it from a payout.
However, Kolbe says although some insurers exclude suicide outright, in most cases the exclusion is contingent on a waiting period of two years. “Once you have made it past that two-year period, the suicide exclusion no longer applies with most life insurers, and a death claim can be submitted.”
Kolbe emphasises that suicide is never the answer. “Life has never been easy and, for many of us, it can feel unbearable. I look forward to a day where our suicide claims statistics are at zero, but I know that will never be the case. All I can hope for is a world where we are all a little more aware of the suffering of those around us, especially our fathers, brothers and sons. Too many are suffering in silence, and giving up in the process.”