Life Insurance and Obesity: Weigh More - Pay More

By Insurance.com Posted : 07/24/2009

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When it comes to buying life insurance, most people aren't surprised to learn overall health is a factor in determining the premium a person will pay. What catches most people off guard is that weight – in some cases, just the 30 or 40 pounds you're trying to lose – plays a role, too.

Why? Because every life insurance company will take your physical build into consideration when determining the cost of your insurance.

The reasoning is pretty straightforward. Obesity is clearly linked to serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, some types of cancer, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease and more. These conditions not only present a risk to those that are obese, but to life insurance underwriters as well. Though an overweight person might be otherwise healthy, his increased risk of developing a more serious health condition because of his obesity translates into a similar financial risk for the insurance company offering life insurance quotes.

It's An Epidemic

Obesity is an epidemic in the United States. More than 34 percent of the U.S. population is considered obese, according to data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 66 percent of the population is overweight. Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. Those with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight. BMI is calculated from a person's weight and height and provides a reasonable indicator of body fatness and weight categories that may lead to health problems. You can calculate your BMI through the CDC.

This epidemic is what has caused concern in the life insurance industry – and has translated into higher premiums for those who are overweight and obese. "The increasing prevalence of obesity is too significant for the life insurance industry to ignore," reads a Swiss Re study. The report analyzed the impact of obesity on mortality trends, identifying the implications of the obesity epidemic on the pricing and underwriting of life insurance products. Swiss Re is a leading global reinsurer that focuses on risk transfer, risk retention finance and asset management.

The study concludes that "the life insurance industry must tackle issues associated with increases in obesity by ensuring that the related risks are accurately assessed and rated, and that consumers are charged an appropriate premium to reflect the risk they present."

You Can Still Get Insurance

If you are rejected by a life insurance company because of your weight, there are companies that will insure you.

These companies will offer a graded death benefit policy, which is a death payment that increases with the age of an insured. In other words, the longer you live, the more money paid out to your beneficiaries.

These, too, can be expensive. You can ask for a lower death benefit to make the premium more affordable, but you trade off the amount of money that your beneficiary will receive.

Paying More than Life Insurance Premiums

It's not just higher life insurance premiums that will hit the pocket book of those that are obese and overweight. Many will pay more in direct health costs, according to the CDC, like preventive, diagnostic and treatment services. And as a nation, we're all paying more in medical costs – to the tune of nearly $100 billion annually – because of this epidemic.

Then there are other things, like paying more for health insurance and even being asked to purchase a second seat on an airplane. There's even a growing trend for emergency medical transport companies to charge obese people more for ambulance service.

Save Money, Get Healthy

If you want to ensure you're getting the best life insurance quotes when you shop for life insurance, then it's time to get healthy.

Remember that losing weight isn't the job of a crash diet or exercise alone. It's a combination of the two and more. It's a life-long lifestyle change that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and a balance of calories consumed versus calories used. Those that lose weight slowly – about 1 to 2 pounds a week – are more successful at keeping the weight off, according to the CDC.

The benefits of a healthy lifestyle – beyond the best life insurance quotes and premiums – include improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars, as well as lower risk for many of the health conditions listed at the top of this article. Participants in the National Weight Control Registry even reported improvements in energy levels, physical mobility, general mood and self-confidence.

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1 Responses to "Life Insurance and Obesity: Weigh More - Pay More"
  1. Paul Townsford 04, Dec, 2012

    On the opposing side would an individual who was on the frail side pay more as well?

      Reply»  

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