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In brief: Insurance discrimination, dating apps, and school mental health services

Image of person at computer
Glenn Carstens-Peters | Unsplash

Top story Insurance providers charging sky-high prices for some people with mental health issues

Research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has found that some people with mental health issues are charged almost 27-times more for insurance products than those without mental health issues.

This huge increase in costs has caused people with mental health problems to take out reduced coverage or no insurance at all.

The study involved a mystery shop of 15 travel insurance providers to see how disclosing a history of mental health issues might affect the price or quality of insurance offered.

Specifically, the researchers focused on how a diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder, as well as the immediacy of the condition (whether it was historic or ongoing), might affect insurance options.

The study found that someone living with severe depression is charged an average of 3-times more for insurance compared with someone without mental health issues.

This figure rose dramatically for someone living with severe bipolar, rising to an average of 11-times more, and some even having to pay 27-times higher prices.

Immediacy of mental health issues provided little effect, with some individuals paying double for insurance despite not having experienced symptoms for over 5 years.

Not all individuals with mental health issues were offered protection though – 9 out of 15 insurance providers refused to protect someone with severe bipolar.

Five of the 15 providers also included exclusions for mental health issues, yet their policy prices remained the same.

"By law, insurers are allowed to treat people with disabilities (including mental health conditions) differently when it comes to pricing decisions and what cover is offered – but only if these decisions are backed up by accurate and up-to-date information," the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said in a statement.

"Given the lack of transparency from the industry about what data it uses, Money and Health is concerned that some firms could actually be breaking the law over pricing decisions for people with mental health problems."

Dating apps may be addictive, lead to poor mental health

A recent survey by eHarmony has found that 90% of singles are ‘addicted’ to using dating apps, with 55% feeling they spend too much time using them.

The results suggest that this overuse of dating apps has had a negative impact on the mental health of users, with 44% feeling ‘not good enough’ for people they are attracted to, and 39% saying they feel unwanted.

Additionally, 33% reported feeling depressed, 20% feeling more stressed, and 16% experiencing anxiety due to using dating apps.

US study to investigate COVID vaccine hesitancy among people with anxiety or depression

A group of US universities are to carry out research on high levels of COVID vaccine hesitancy shown in people with depression or anxiety.

Researchers from the City University of New York, the University of North Carolina, Harvard, and Columbia University will tap into data from the national CHASING COVID Cohort (C3) study to design and test a digital intervention aimed at increasing COVID vaccine uptake among US adults with depression or anxiety.

Dr Milton Wainberg, a co-researcher from Columbia University, said:

"The COVID-19 pandemic both increased the rates of mental health problems, especially depression and anxiety, and worsened mental health disparities. Treating mental health problems will not be enough to improve suboptimal COVID-19 vaccination rates among people with mental health symptoms. Other strategies are needed."

NICE supports digital interventions for children

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has given its support to four digital technologies aiming to help children’s mental health.

The services NICE is backing are:

  • Space services provided by Silvercloud for teens

  • Lumi Nova digital therapy developed by BfB Labs

  • Online support and intervention for children with anxiety

  • Online social anxiety cognitive therapy for adolescents

The four services utilise videos, quizzes and games that are based on the foundations of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), with the aim of helping children and young people to internalise techniques that can improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

“Patient experts told our committee that mental health services are in high demand, access varies widely across the country, and there is an unmet need when it comes to receiving treatment while on waiting lists to see specialists," said Interim Director of Medical Technology and Digital Evaluation at NICE, Mark Chapman.

"These four technologies offer low risk options to children and young people who need to begin treatment as soon as possible.”

Irrational beliefs causing poor mental health among athletes

A study of 400 athletes has revealed that irrational beliefs and ‘put down’ language are major predictors of poor mental health amongst competitors.

It was found that these irrational beliefs, such as the idea “if I lose, I’m a failure", led to poor self-confidence, increased anxiety towards competition, and more depressive symptoms.

Researcher Dr Martin Turner, from Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “In our recent study, self-depreciation beliefs were found to be the main predictor of low self-confidence. In simple terms, when an athlete put themselves down and uses language like “If I lose, it means I am a failure" it is most damaging and most likely to lead to losses of confidence. This is then likely to have a knock-on effect on performance and wellbeing.

“We can all work to help athletes develop mindsets that help them deal with the challenges of sport and life. By encouraging rational and logical beliefs about performance, we can help athletes to stay healthy amidst the high demands of competitive sport.”

School mental health services improving, but still have problems

Research from The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has found that accessing child mental health services in schools is improving — but many challenges still need to be addressed.

The NIHR examined the effectiveness of the ‘Trailblazer’ national programme, which aims to improve access to early interventions and support by funding mental health support teams (MHST), concluding that it has had a positive impact.

Survey data from almost 300 schools and colleges, interviews with 132 people carrying out MHSTs, and focus groups of young people and children showed that staff had more confidence in discussing mental health with young people, advice was quicker to access, and the referral process was sped up.

Children also reported that they valued being able to express how they felt with someone who cared about their mental health.

However, the programme has also encountered some hurdles, such as language and cultural barriers, frustration towards it only targeting ‘mild to medium’ symptoms, and its struggles to balance services.

“Overall, children and young people who had contact with an MHST reported an overwhelmingly positive experience," said Jo Ellins, from the University of Birmingham. "Mental health services in schools and colleges are facing increased pressure, particularly following the pandemic, and the programme has significant potential.

"But teams may find it difficult to sustain activities focusing on promoting wellbeing, given the increasing demand for mental health support.”


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