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Men and Women View The Risk Of Extended Care Differently

In a previous blog post, I wrote that men and women will react differently to the notion of risk and stressed how important it is to match the intent of a long-term care insurance sales conversation to a client's gender. I stated that these psychological differences have their origins in evolutionary psychology.

Now, I’d like to delve more deeply into the psychological differences and explain how you can use this knowledge to better communicate with your clients, protect them from the dangers of long-term care and enhance your production.

Gender Differences With Risk

Evolutionary psychology is the study of how the human brain evolved to allow our species to survive a harsh, unforgiving environment. Over the millennia, men and women developed different psychological characteristics that support different relationships with risk.

Studies have shown that men have developed characteristics that, in general, leads them to minimize or disregard risk. They perceive their behavior as less risky and are more likely to engage in behavior that could lead to undesirable or damaging outcomes.

This manifests itself in a variety of ways, but a few limited examples include (Cross, Copping & Campbell, 2011):

  • Men drive more recklessly, with fully 97% of dangerous driving offenses committed by men

  • Worldwide, men use drugs (alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and cocaine) more than women

  • Men also have a significantly higher death rate from non-vehicle accidents such as falls, drowning, electrocution, firearm accidents, and fires

It’s this tendency to ignore or feel indifferent about risk that makes it difficult for men to buy insurance.

As a result, men tend to separate the risk of dying, becoming severely disabled – or in this case, needing extended care – from the consequences of doing so. If they don't see something as a risk, then, in their minds, there are no consequences to others, including their families. Of course, these findings vary based on a wide variety of social and cultural factors.

Women, in general, are less likely to engage in risky and impulsive behavior and more likely to weigh the potential cost of an action in comparison to the benefit.

As a result, women are more likely to look at the risk and consequences of an event as one and the same. In other words, a risk is a consequence. When it comes to long-term care, they may instinctively understand the emotional, physical and financial responsibilities associated with an extended illness or disability. They view the risk of needing care through the prism of its consequences.

In my personal experience of over 20 years in the long-term care industry, I have often seen these ideas manifest as follows:

If you ask a man if he believes he will ever need care over an extended period of years the answer is a simple, "no."

In his mind, if there is no risk of the event happening, then there are no consequences. Therefore, why buy a product to cover them? Often times when a woman answered this question, the answer was, “I hope I don’t,” thereby confirming the belief that risk and consequence are inevitably intertwined.

Again, while these gender-based differences to risk are supported by studies, they are not absolute, especially for many of today's modern families. For example, many women are the primary financial providers in their families. Women in these roles may view risk as men would, and men, vice versa. It’s no different with same-sex couples.

The Take Away

When discussing the subject of long-term care with clients and potential clients, do not focus on the risk of him needing care. Instead, focus on the consequences to them - those he or she loves and is committed to protect.

Give them the opportunity to consider what will happen to their family if they don’t take action. Have him think about the serious emotional, physical and financial consequences and you’ll connect to his deep-seated purpose to protect and provide for the people he invited into his life and promised to care for.

Women may be better able to connect potential risks to the consequences that threaten the wellbeing of themselves and their family. Don't, however, expect to be successful by presenting LTCi the traditional way – as a risk-based proposition, supported by endless statistics.

That’s a tactic that’s doomed to fail regardless of your client's gender or role in the family. Helping people understand the consequences of an unplanned need for extended care is far more likely to motivate your clients and potential clients to create a plan to better protect their families and loved ones.


Catharine P. Cross, Lee T. Copping, and Anne Campbell, (2011). Sex Differences in Impulsivity: A Meta-Analysis, American Psychological Association, Psychological Bulletin Vol. 137, No. 1, 97–130

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