18 July 2017

Millions feel the squeeze financially while coping with a critical illness

5 min read

Meera Khanna, Consumer PR Manager
Meera Khanna

Corporate PR Manager - Protection


  • 3.5 million people diagnosed with a critical illness faced a shortfall in income
  • A third (33%) of those with a critical illness took six months or more off work
  • Carers looking after a loved one are significantly impacted, with more than half (54%) having to take time off or reduce their working hours

New research from Royal London, the UK’s largest mutual life insurer, reveals that on top of coping with a critical illness - such as, cancer, heart attack or stroke – people have to deal with financial pressure from unexpected bills and having to take time off work.

More than half (51%) of those who have been diagnosed with a critical illness said they faced a shortfall in their income. Those who faced a financial burden, due to either their own, or a loved one’s critical illness, covered their outgoings using their existing day-to-day personal finances (65%) and three in 10 (31%) dipped into their savings.

Employees who are too ill to work, are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from their employer which is £89.35 per week for up to 28 weeks but this would not be enough to cover the extra expenses people face when ill or caring for someone who is. Worryingly, the study also revealed, one in five (20%) had no savings at all to fall back on if they were diagnosed with a critical illness.

The cost of being ill

In addition to day-to-day living costs that need to be covered if someone is unable to work, the average additional cost of being ill or caring for someone who is ill can equate to £1,623. Those with a critical illness attended five hospital appointments a month on average, with transport to the hospital, doctor or chemist (67%) being the most common extra expense, costing £391 on average. A third (33%) who faced a burden on their finances cited higher utility expenses, averaging at £675. The most costly extra expense was having alterations to the home, which cost £1,764 on average, though this was a less common expense, with only one in six needing to make alterations.

The wider implications of critical illness

Critical illness doesn’t just affect the person diagnosed; as Royal London’s research shows it can impact their support network too. Most people expected family and friends to care for them if they were unable to carry out day-to-day tasks while ill. With one in 10 people in the UK listed as carers, the research shows two thirds (68%) of people were working when they were caring for someone who had been diagnosed with a critical illness. More than half (54%) had to take some time off or reduce their working hours as a result caring for someone with an illness. A third (35%) of people who had to take time off or reduce their hours estimated that they took up to a month off work.

Debbie Kennedy, Group Head of Protection Strategy at Royal London, said:

Coping with a critical illness is a worrying time. Our research shows that although people expect the illness to have a financial impact they aren’t prepared, with a fifth not having any savings to fall back on. As increasing numbers are being diagnosed with a critical illness, we would urge people to try to get into the savings habit and consider speaking to a financial adviser about their options.

To find a local financial adviser people should visit www.unbiased.co.uk

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For further information please contact:

Meera Khanna, Corporate PR Manager - Protection

Notes to editors:

  1. Opinium, on behalf of Royal London, surveyed 3,004 UK adults from 19th to 23rd June 2017. This report is based on the results of an online survey. The results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.
  2. According to Carers Trust one in 10 people in the UK are carers: https://carers.org/key-facts-about-carers-and-people-they-care

About Royal London:

Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and investment company in the UK, with funds under management of £117 billion, 8.8 million policies in force and 3,745 employees. Figures quoted are as at 30 June 2018.