Most US underwriters expect more pandemics

Munich Re conducted a survey to see what underwriters thought about the prospect of future pandemic risks to the population. Almost half thought the 'flu was the most risky, but about three-quarters thought the overall number and severity of epidemics and pandemics will increase over the next five or 10 years. 

The research is from the United States, revealed at the Association of Home Office Underwriters (AHOU) conference. The poll took the views of the 102 underwriter attendees, almost all from life insurance companies, in person. 

Key findings include:

  • About 45 per cent believe that a form of influenza (bird, swine, etc.) is the possible pandemic disease that carries the most risk for the insured population;
  • The next in line was a currently unknown disease at 25 per cent;
  • The Zika virus was next in line at 14 per cent;
  • Ebola sat at eight per cent; and
  • SARS was seven per cent. 

Three-quarters of underwriters take geographically-located risks into account when they underwrite, with only a quarter of the insurance companies taking Zika virus into consideration. 

Consumer behaviour seems unchanged by Zika and Ebola, with 64 per cent saying these viruses had no impact, but 34 per cent saying more people are seeking cover. 

Over half of all respondents believe that the occurrence of epidemics or pandemics won't affect life insurance accessibility, but that leaves 46 per cent who believe the opposite. Ninety-one per cent of the 102 underwriters thought that average consumers will be able to access affordable life insurance over the coming decade.