Understanding Critical Illness Trends in Malaysia: Insights from Prudential's Critical Illness Insurance Claims Data

Critical illnesses are life-threatening conditions that require immediate medical attention. For example, heart attacks, strokes and even cancer or kidney failure. They can have a devastating impact on one's health, finances, and quality of life. Unfortunately, the prevalence of critical illnesses is rising globally, and this is expected to continue in the coming years.

In Malaysia, the prevalence of critical illnesses is rising due to an ageing population, urbanisation, lifestyle changes, and environmental pollution. According to Prudential Malaysia, the payout for critical illness claims increased by 11% from 2021 to 2022, with cancer, heart disease, and stroke as the top three diagnoses.

We explore Malaysia’s critical illness trends based on Prudential's most recent claims data and provide insights on possibly reducing the risk of developing these conditions.

The rising prevalence of critical illnesses in Malaysia

As mentioned, Prudential Malaysia reported an 11% increase in payouts for critical illness claims from 2021 to 2022. This is in step with the global trend of rising chronic and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which account for 71% of all deaths worldwide. Some potential reasons for the rise in critical illness cases in Malaysia are:

  • An ageing population: As people live longer, they are more likely to develop chronic conditions that increase the risk of critical illnesses. According to the

Department of Statistics, Malaysia, has attained an ageing nation status. The proportion of Malaysians aged 60 and above is projected to increase from 10% in 2019 to 24% in 2050.

  • Urbanisation: More than 75% of Malaysians live in urban areas, where they are exposed to higher levels of air pollution, noise pollution, and stress. These factors can contribute to cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and mental health issues.

  • Lifestyle changes: Malaysians are adopting more sedentary lifestyles, consuming more processed foods, and having more access to cigarettes and alcohol than ever. These behaviours can lead to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, which are major risk factors for critical illnesses.

  • Environmental pollution: Malaysia faces various environmental challenges, such as deforestation, water contamination, waste management, and climate change. These issues can affect the quality of natural resources, biodiversity, and human health.

  • Stress: Stress is also a notable factor in developing critical illnesses. The fast-paced nature of modern life has led to increased stress levels, which harm physical and mental health. Unfortunately, chronic stress sometimes weakens immune systems, making individuals more susceptible to critical illnesses.



Top 5 critical illness diagnoses in Malaysia

The top five critical illness diagnoses account for over 90% of all critical illness claims from Prudential. Let us discuss the implications of these diagnoses for Malaysians, including any emerging trends or changes in prevalence.


Every year in Malaysia, over 20,000 new patients, with an average age of 40 years, are diagnosed with cancer, according to the managing director of the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM), Dr M. Murallitharan.  It is the second-leading cause of death in Malaysia after cardiovascular diseases. In 2020, breast cancer made up of 17.3% of the total number of new cases in Malaysia, colorectal cancer 13.6%, lung cancer 10.6%, nasopharynx cancer 4.6%, and liver cancer 4.4%.

Moreover, the incidences of cancer in Malaysia are expected to double by 2040 due to population growth and ageing. Some risk factors for cancer include genetic predisposition, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, physical inactivity, diet, infections, environmental exposure, and hormonal factors.

A total of RM145,872,000 was paid out by Prudential for cancer-related claims in 2022. The highest claims payout for cancer was RM1,987,000.

Heart disease

Unsurprisingly, heart disease was the second leading diagnosis of critical illness claims from Prudential. In fact, Ischemic heart disease was Malaysia's second leading cause of death in 2021, accounting for 13% of all deaths, ahead of pneumonia and cerebrovascular diseases and behind Covid-19.

In 2022, Prudential paid out RM44,732,000 for claims related to heart disease, and the highest payout was RM800,000. Some notable risk factors for heart disease include hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.


Stroke, characterised by the interruption of blood flow to the brain, poses a significant health risk in Malaysia. A total of RM11,670,000 was paid out by Prudential in 2022, making it the third-highest critical illness payout.

High blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and unhealthy lifestyle habits contribute to stroke incidence. However, individuals can lower their risk by maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, managing diabetes effectively, and making positive lifestyle choices.

Kidney disease

Kidney disease has steadily increased in Malaysia, necessitating critical illness coverage for many individuals and leading to a total payout of RM8,345,000 in 2022. However, by managing hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and certain medications, people can reduce their risk of developing critical kidney-related illnesses.

Brain disease

Critical illnesses affecting the brain, such as brain tumours and neurodegenerative diseases, have significant implications for individuals and their families.

However, early detection, timely medical intervention, and appropriate insurance coverage are crucial for managing the financial burdens associated with these conditions. A total of RM5,988,000 was paid out by Prudential in 2022 for claims related to brain disease.

Steps to reduce the risk of critical illnesses

Prevention is key when it comes to critical illnesses. Unfortunately, some health-related factors may be beyond one's control. However, healthy lifestyle choices can significantly reduce the risk of developing these conditions. These recommendations may help individuals lower their susceptibility:

  1. Ensure to maintain a balanced diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, fruits and lean proteins while minimising processed foods, excessive salt, and sugar intake.

  2. Engage in regular physical activity, targeting at least 160 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.

  3. Avoid tobacco use and limit alcohol consumption.

  4. Manage stress effectively through relaxation techniques, like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.

  5. Ensure to maintain a healthy weight or body mass index (BMI) by balancing calorie intake and physical activity.

  6. Schedule regular health screenings, including blood pressure checks, cholesterol tests, and cancer screenings, as recommended by healthcare professionals. These check-ups may allow for timely treatment and management.

  7. Stay updated with vaccinations to prevent infectious diseases that can lead to critical illnesses.

Incorporating these preventive measures into your lifestyle can reduce the risk of critical illnesses, safeguarding long-term health.

The financial burden of critical illnesses

Apart from the physical and emotional toll, critical illnesses can impose a significant financial burden on individuals and their families. Treatment costs are often high, and many individuals may not have adequate finances to cover these expenses.

Furthermore, critical illnesses can result in lost income due to time off work. This significantly impacts an individual's financial stability.

Unfortunately, the cost of treating critical illnesses in Malaysia has steadily risen over the years due to medical inflation, and the complexities of specialised treatments. So, understanding the financial implications is crucial in preparing for such circumstances.

For instance, breast cancer, a prevalent critical illness, requires comprehensive treatment that may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and follow-up care. The unpredictable expenses associated with these treatments can be substantial and strain personal finances.

Similarly, other critical illnesses necessitate extensive medical interventions, hospitalisations, and long-term care, further exacerbating the financial challenges individuals and families face.

Critical illness insurance

In light of the rising prevalence of critical illnesses and the potential financial strain they bring, adequate insurance coverage is paramount. Health insurance that includes critical illness coverage can provide much-needed financial protection and peace of mind during challenging times.

Critical illness insurance policies offer a lump-sum payment upon the unforeseen diagnosis. This financial support can be utilised to:

  • Cover medical expenses

  • Replace lost income during treatment and recovery periods

  • Settle outstanding debts

  • Make necessary lifestyle adjustments.



It provides a safety net that allows individuals to focus on their recovery and access the best possible medical care without worrying about costs.

However, selecting the right critical illness insurance plan that meets your specific needs is essential. Consider factors such as:

  • The coverage amount

  • Waiting periods

  • Exclusions

  • Policy terms

  • Individual factors such as age, income and family history.



Prudential's PRUMy Critical Care is a comprehensive critical illness insurance plan that provides coverage for a wide range of critical illnesses, offering financial security and support when needed.

It's imperative to note that the earlier you obtain critical illness insurance coverage, the better. This is because pre-existing medical conditions may impact eligibility, and premiums rise with age. Securing adequate coverage early ensures peace of mind and protection for yourself and your loved ones.


In conclusion, the insights derived from  highlight the rising prevalence of critical illnesses in Malaysia. Cancers, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and brain diseases are among the top diagnoses, emphasizing the need for preventive measures and early detection through regular health screenings.

The financial burden of critical illnesses cannot be underestimated, with treatment costs and medical inflation contributing to the strain on individuals and families. Adequate insurance coverage, such as critical illness insurance, plays a cardinal role in addressing these challenges and providing financial security.

Individuals need to take action to protect themselves and their families by actively investing in comprehensive insurance coverage and adopting preventive measures. By proactively managing their health and securing the right insurance plan, Malaysians can better navigate critical illnesses' risks and financial implications.