Obesity is one of the most common reasons a person might be declined, or charged higher insurance premiums, when applying for life insurance coverage.
While it’s a fact that many who are overweight can remain healthy well into old age, insurance underwriters take a scientific approach to making the decisions. Using statistical analysis to arrive at health ratings and premium rates, underwriters know that being overweight increases an individual’s death rate in purely linear terms.
If you’re 25% overweight, life expectancy stats reveal that you’ll have a 25% greater likelihood of dying at a particular age than an average weight individual. The increased health risks which come from being overweight include a greater risk of heart problems, high blood pressure, digestive ailments and diabetes.
And the more overweight you are? The more you can expect that your health ratings will be negatively impacted, and the worse your health rating, the higher your premiums.
If you’re overweight you can also expect that your application review process will be extended as an insurance company will likely order additional medical records from your doctor and perhaps require more extensive testing.
So what does all that mean in terms of a real-life example? an average American male is 5’9” tall and weighs in at 196 pounds, and according to the CDC, that means he’s on the borderline of being considered overweight. The CDC body mass index chart says that the average man is just six pounds from being considered officially obese.
At 5’4” tall and 166 pounds, the average American woman is also officially categorized as being “obese” on the CDC scale.
If that same woman reached just over 280 pounds, some life insurance companies would find that cause to turn her down.
Op-ed pieces in various outlets have noted that obesity is a public policy and budget issue as much as it is a health issue. After all, obesity tends to increase an individual’s chances of contracting chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease – and a wide variety of other medical problems.
Over time, these conditions tend to saddle an individual with higher medical costs and higher life insurance premiums.
One in three kids will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives, and that comes at a cost to the economy. Sources say some $150 billion is spent every year to treat obesity-related conditions.
Public health officials have long urged Americans to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables and to cut down on deep fried foods and highly sugared sodas, among other things. Sticking to a regular exercise routine is another important step toward lower life insurance and medical costs as one grows older.
Tips for Understanding How Body Weight and Mass Affect Life Insurance Premiums
What will underwriters consider in terms of your weight?
- What’s your ‘build?’ That’s usually represented by your Body Mass Index.
- Do you have weight-related related health conditions?
- Is your weight a condition of a disease?
- Has your weight ever fluctuated for unknown reasons?
When Applying Life Insurance, Here Are Our Insider Tips:
- Those extra pounds immediately before applying for life insurance won’t be much help. Life insurance companies average your weight over a year-long window.
- Wear your shoes during your health exam as your height is measured, and remove them as you’re weighed.
- If you’re into weight lifting or an athlete, ask the nurse to measure your chest add your BMI to her notes which go to the insurance company.
- Search for a policy through a respected multi-company app to find the best premiums on offer to fit your specific needs.