There are 18.3 million people in the UK who are living with “illness denial”, according to AIG Life.
A survey by the insurer found 54% of people don’t believe they will suffer from cancer, stroke or heart disease – the three major causes of death in the UK.
Just 22% expect to be affected by cancer in their lifetime, however for those born after 1960 the risk statistically is 50%.
Illness denial affects heart disease too – only 17% believe they will be affected, whereas official statistics show heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a quarter (26%) of all deaths.
Strokes are the leading cause of death and disability in the UK, but only 7% believe it could affect them.
The survey also found 77% of adults said they would experience financial problems if they developed a serious illness in the next six months, with 26% saying they would have significant financial problems.
Debbie Bolton, head of underwriting and claims strategy at AIG Life, said taking a realistic and practical approach to the risk of illness and the need for financial protection will help us all to plan for the future.
“If we also take steps to improve our lifestyle we can move into our later years in good health,” she added.