Insurers, Follow Swiss Re’s Lead And Make The Connection Between Biodiversity And Physical And Mental Health

A new report from global reinsurance giant Swiss Re puts in human terms the financial impact of biodiversity loss as the ‘twin risk of climate change.’

The paper, authored by Dr. Oliver Schelske, Natural Assets & ESG Research Lead, Swiss Re Institute, makes a compelling case how beneficial time spent in nature can be for physical and mental well-being through the lens of financial impact.

Swiss Re Institute takes the old Hippocrates adage, ‘Nature itself is the best physician,’ as its credo, dividing the report into two main sections.

The first, scientific insights into the health benefits of nature, focuses especially on the role of nature in mental health maintenance.

The report notes, ‘The global economic burden of mental illness is enormous, estimated at USD 2.5 trillion in 2010 and projected to reach USD 6.0 trillion by 2030…If the financial impact of mental health conditions was reduced by just 1 percent through time spent in nature, it could result in $60 billion annual savings by 2030.’

This is of particular concern to employers and by extension, health insurers – the report cites a 2002 study (Goetzel et al.) that the most common cause of workplace absence is mental health, followed by cancer.

As Schelske explains in the report, ‘The significant global mental health protection gap represents a large potential risk pool and consequently an opportunity for the insurance sector. Treatment coverage may be designed suboptimal. Insurers are recommended to develop product- and non-product related support for mental as well as physical health covers; and offer solutions with an emphasis on early prevention.’ A separate study published in 2021 in Frontiers in Psychiatry bears this out.

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