MORE than 30,000 families shared payouts totalling €1bn from Irish Life last year, after making claims on policies that covered them when they got ill, a member of the family died or they lost their jobs.
Breast cancer was the single biggest cause of claims for those who have specified illness cover.
It is not just older people who benefited, as one-in-three specified illness claims were made by people aged 40 and under.
Men are more likely to die of a heart condition than women, and 10 times more likely to claim for heart problems than their female counterparts.
Irish Life head of claims Martin Duffy said: "These figures are extraordinary, and show how important it is for people to have protection plans if they want to ensure their families are financially secure in the future. One-in-four people will suffer a serious illness, such as a heart attack or malignant cancer, while one-in-10 will die before they reach retirement age."
The statistics from Irish Life show that the average payout was €65,000.
The largest payment was €1.19m to a family of a man in his early 60s who died of bowel cancer. And €875,000 was paid to a family of a man in his 40s who died of bone cancer.
Road traffic accidents accounted for almost a quarter of accident-related claims in 2010. Some 11pc of total accident claims settled by Irish Life last year involved alcohol.