AIA Group (AIA) has found that people in Sri Lanka face a considerable financing gapwhere savings, current levels of insurance and government health provisions may not be enough to pay for the treatment for critical illnesses (such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes or other serious conditions).

The findings are part of the latest AIA Healthy Living Index Survey (‘The Survey’), the fourth since 2011, which highlights the prevailing health trends, motivations and concerns for individuals and communities across Asia-Pacific.

In Sri Lanka, 41% of people are concerned about the potential costs of critical illness. When asked to estimate the cost of treatment for heart disease they expect they would have to bear over one-fifth (21%) estimate, an amount that would have serious financial implications for them.

The concern is justified when the expected financing gap is taken into account. For cancer treatment, respondents who think they would not be able to afford treatment, expect an average shortfall of 83% of the costs they would have to bear. Across people who cannot afford treatment in Sri Lanka, the financing gap for heart disease is 75% and for diabetes, 92% of direct costs.

Health and Habits

Overall, people’s satisfaction with their health and habits in Sri Lanka has declined since the previous AIA Healthy Living Index in 2016. Some 77% of respondents are satisfied with their health, down from 89% in 2016.

Some 35% of people in Sri Lanka rate themselves positively on the amount of exercise they are getting – down twenty-eight percentage points since 2016. Thirty-five per cent are satisfied with their frequency of medical check-ups – down 41% points from 2016.

The results are likely to reflect changing expectations about ideal healthy lifestyles and behaviours as much as changing habits. Along with a drop-in satisfaction levels, people are less likely to behave more healthily. On average, respondents in Sri Lanka claim to do 1.4 hours of exercise each week – a decrease from 2.1hours claimed in 2016.

Healthy habits can be hard to sustain among Sri Lankans. Only 49% of those who have ever adopted a weight loss scheme continue to use one now. And just 30% of those who have ever joined a gym or fitness class have gone to one in the past four weeks.

Activity tracking technology

Meanwhile, technology is proving a positive force for change. Most (56% of all respondents in Sri Lanka) consider health and activity tracking technology to be easy to use and 56 per cent think these devices motivate positive changes in behaviour. That said, only 1% of those surveyed in Sri Lanka have ever tried an activity tracker.

Commenting on the Survey, CEO AIA Sri Lanka Pankaj Banerjee said, “Most people underestimate the financial impact that a serious illness has on their assets and savings…both in terms of being able to afford the best care and in recovery from a serious illness."

"It is therefore vitally important for people to be conscious of the need to make healthy lifestyle habits while also ensuring to be well prepared to handle any eventualities. As an insurer, this is where AIA can help, with products, propositions and programmes that help you live healthier, longer, better – so you can make the most of life.”

The AIA Healthy Living Index surveyed 11,000 adults in 16 of our markets and was commissioned by AIA and conducted by IPSOS, a leading consumer research company.