New research from AIG Life reveals 18.3 million people are living with what it has termed ‘illness denial’, as they are failing to accept they are at risk of disease or developing a serious medical condition in their lifetime. More than half (54 per cent) of people don’t believe they will suffer from cancer, stroke or heart disease – the three major causes of death in the UK. The detailed study shows hope is beating reality – just 22 per cent questioned expect to be affected by cancer in their lifetime. Yet for those born after 1960 the risk statistically is 50 per cent, which adds up to 14.2 million living in a state of cancer denial alone. The reality is that data shows 38 per cent of cancer cases including lung, bowel and skin melanoma are preventable with lifestyle chang-es. Early diagnosis also has a huge impact on survival chances with NHS cancer screenings, which are in place for bowel, breast and cervical cancer, providing a vital service.
Research shows illness denial affects heart disease too – only 17 per cent believe they will be affected while official statistics show heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a quarter (26 per cent) of all deaths. Strokes are the leading cause of death and disability in the UK but only seven per cent believe it could affect them. Taking a realistic approach and accepting ill-ness is highly likely to deliver real benefits in not only taking preventative health steps, such as exercise and dietary change, but also in deciding on financial protection which can help with re-turning to work after illness or providing support if people cannot work.
Over three quarters (77 per cent) of adults say they would experience financial problems if they developed a serious illness in the next six months, with 26 per cent saying they would have sig-nificant financial problems. Having financial protection in place would relieve the potential pres-sure on family and friends – around a third (34 per cent) of people say they need would rely on friends and family for financial support if they suffered serious illnesses in later life. There is good news on illness denial – the older we get the more realistic we become. Only around 27 per cent of those aged over 55 years old are convinced serious medical conditions will never happen to them compared with 44 per cent of younger people.