Executives at major insurance companies in the United States are grappling with a concerning trend: a surge in deaths among teenagers, young adults, and white-collar Americans. This unexpected rise in mortality rates has led to a significant increase in death claims, putting pressure on industry profits and prompting a reevaluation of the situation.
Insurance companies had anticipated higher payouts due to excess deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, death benefits saw a substantial 15.4% increase, the largest single-year spike since the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. In 2021, the industry paid out a record-breaking $100.28 billion in total death benefits, nearly double the historical norm. However, there is growing concern as mortality rates continue to remain elevated even as COVID-19 infection rates decline.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has particularly alarmed insurers. The CDC’s statistics reveal a striking increase in mortality rates across various categories. Of particular concern are the mortality rates among younger adults, which have surged by over 20% compared to historic norms in 2023.
Intriguingly, mortality rates have remained abnormally high even after the pandemic has subsided. CDC figures from January to May 2023 show mortality rates 25% higher than usual among 15 to 19-year-olds, and 20% higher among those in their prime at 45 years of age. Even individuals in their twenties and thirties are experiencing mortality rates 15% and 20% above normal, respectively.
Samantha Chow of Capgemini emphasizes that this unexpected spike in excess deaths has caught insurers off guard. The industry now faces the critical question of whether it is prepared to handle this sudden surge in claims. It’s not just a matter of life and health; it’s about the industry’s capacity to manage this monumental outflow.
The Society of Actuaries (SOA), the world’s largest professional actuarial organization, has been closely monitoring excess mortality rates. A poll among its members worldwide indicated that 85% believed excess mortality rates would persist until 2025. In a subsequent poll, 79% expressed the belief that these rates would extend into 2026.
Despite mounting evidence, the SOA’s latest report in May found no direct link between historic death rates and COVID-19 vaccine mandates. However, experts like Dr. Pierre Kory have called on insurance companies to collaborate with media and governments in investigating the potential correlation between COVID-19 mRNA vaccines and the surge in deaths.
While the debate continues, the insurance industry faces a critical challenge. The unexpected rise in death claims has put a strain on resources, raising questions about the industry’s capacity to weather this outflow.