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Life Insurance

Tragic Events – Likelihood vs Reality l NobleOak Whitepaper 2019

11 Feb 2019

Life Insurance by Life Stage

The choices you make today can impact your long-term health, wealth and happiness. Understand the important role Life Insurance can play in key life events.

When it comes to people’s fears we wanted to find out how these compared to the likelihood of the events occurring. In new research conducted in December 2018 fear of getting cancer stood out as the major concern for respondents.

The research, commissioned by NobleOak and conducted amongst over 1,000 Australians in December 2018, asked respondents to rate their greatest fears. The results were then compared to the likelihood of the events occurring, using published statistics from various sources.

Similar to last year’s survey, the results showed that respondents nominated the top four in order of likelihood as cancer, heart attack, car accident and stroke.

The main difference in this year’s survey is that respondents ranked the likelihood of dying from Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s or Dementia as being lower compared to 2017. This is despite the fact that Alzheimer’s and Dementia is the second biggest cause of death in Australia.

Cancer continues to dominate as the number one likelihood in our research conducted in 2016, 2017 and again in 2018. This is contrary to the fact that coronary heart disease is the number one cause of death.

Not surprisingly, dying from a terrorist attack, being hit by lightning and being attacked by a shark were seen as the least likely events to occur.

Perception versus reality

While the chief concerns are health-related, the findings show a mismatch between perception and reality.

Two in particular stand out:

The overwhelming fear Australians have of cancer even though the disease is ranked fourth in the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS), statistics (malignant neoplasm of trachea) on leading causes of death – behind heart disease, dementia and cerebrovascular diseases.

The high, and growing, incidence of dementia in the ageing Australian population is underestimated. While dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia according to the ABS, respondents placed it at seventh in 2018, compared to sixth place in 2017.

The top four leading causes of death for Australians are shown in the table below compared to the ranking by respondents.

Leading causes of death 2016

Australian Bureau of Statistics

Leading Causes of Death (ABS) Rank ABS Rank NobleOak Research
Ischaemic heart diseases (120-125) 1 2
Dementia, including Alzheimer disease (F01, F03, G30) 2 7
3 4
Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34) e.g. lung cancer 4 1

Respondents also ranked car accidents at number 3, however there are much fewer deaths from fatal crashes compared to other leading causes.

According to federal government figures, there were 1,226 deaths resulting from car accidents in 2017, compared to 19,077 deaths from ischaemic heart disease.

Despite a number of recent high profile global terror attacks, terrorism still ranks quite low on the list of people’s concerns. Terror attacks ranked 9th in the list of traumatic events in 2016, 2017 and again in 2018.

It is concerning that more people do not understand the risks associated with aging. With projections indicating the number of people aged 80 and over will double in the next 20 years, there is a very real possibility that that dementia will become the leading cause of death.

More needs to be done to educate people about these risks. There are more than 400,000 people suffering from dementia in Australia with more than half being women. It is also the leading cause of death amongst women.

In addition, many people do not know that Life Insurance and Trauma Insurance provides cover for dementia.


The research referred to was conducted independently by PureProfile in December 2018 from a survey completed by over 1,000 Australians.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australia’s leading causes of death, 2016


Statistics on Suicide in Australia.

Dementia statistics.

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