Almost a fifth of people no longer have life insurance policies, new YouGov research shows.

The “Life and Health Protection” report reveals that 19% of consumers used to have a life insurance policy but have subsequently lost or given up the cover – an increase of six percentage points in the past two years. The report estimates that 18.4 million people are now covered by life insurance compared to 20.9 million when YouGov last asked about the issue in late 2011.

Older people are the group most likely to no longer have a policy. Three in ten (30%) over-55s used to have life insurance but now don’t, compared to just over one in five (21%) of those aged 45-54 and one in ten (11%) 35-44 year-olds. Among over-35s, those in the 55+ age group are the least likely to have life insurance cover. 39% of people in this age bracket have policies, compared to 45% of 35-44 year-olds and 48% of those aged 45-54.

The research suggests that the number of consumers thinking about taking out a policy in the near future has halved in recent years. When YouGov previously asked about it in late 2011, 10% planned to take out life insurance; in the most recent study, just 5% think they will. There are large variations in intention to buy in terms of age. While 12% of 25-34 year olds intend to take out life insurance soon, just 1% of over-55s do.

Simon Mottram, Director of Financial and Professional Services at YouGov, says: “The proportion of adults who no longer have life insurance has risen significantly over the past two years. This may be a reflection of maturing mortgage endowment policies, households cutting back on non-essential spending because money is tight or possibly an effect of the change in sales structure following the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) coming into effect in January last year. The most worrying thing for the industry is the large reduction in the proportion of those who intend to take out life insurance in the near future. With finances squeezed for so many households, providers will have to find new ways of making the case for policies in the coming years.”

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