Fifty-four percent of men buying individual critical illness insurance policies in 2010 were younger than age 45 while 51 percent of women buyers were age 45 or older, according to a study conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance and Gen Re.

In the Critical Illness Insurance Buyer Study, researchers examined data for more than 20,500 buyers of individual critical illness insurance policies occurring between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2010.

"Most individuals between the ages of 25 and 55 are completely unaware of how vitally important critical illness insurance can be to their family," explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the industry trade organization. "The same can be said for the majority of U.S. insurance professionals who lack an understanding of this relatively new form of financial protection."

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