Despite offering consumers invaluable financial protection, life insurance and disability insurance lost a popularity contest to dental and vision coverage in a new study released by Sun Life’s employee benefits group.

In the nationwide survey of more than 2,800 employees, although employees ranked disability and life highly in terms of the "likelihood of using in the near future," they promoted dental to the head of the class when asked about the financial impact that would occur if they needed a particular benefit—ranking it almost as highly as disability and life. Employees also reported that they value dental and vision more than disability and life.

"The findings suggest that employees might not truly understand the financial protection provided by their life and disability benefits," says Michael Shunney, senior vice president and general manager of Sun Life’s Employee Benefits Group. "Although concerning, it presents an additional opportunity to both educate and engage employees about the value and need for benefits such as disability and life that provide the most financial protection."

I know these findings must be frustrating for you and especially for life and disability carriers, but I think what’s at play here is just the reality of the human condition.

People—and Americans in particular—generally think in terms of the here and now, and crave instant gratification. Neither mindset lends itself well to life and disability coverage, which force people to think of a future need and then spend money accordingly.

Also, it’s easier to think about needing your wisdom teeth out one day than it is to think about dying early or becoming disabled. I’m not sure how you overcome that, even with the best communications campaign.

Has your company won the popularity contest between life/disability and medical/dental/vision? What works/what doesn’t in the fight for employees’ small discretionary dollars and even smaller attention spans? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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