How your health affects your life insurance rates


We are sorry to be the ones to break the news, but you are not going to live forever.

This is one of the many reasons having life insurance is important to you and your family.

You cannot control whether you die or not, but you can have a positive influence on how long you live.  

The average life expectancy of people in the United States is 78 years old and is rising. This is because of how health-conscious the world has become, and also due to improvements in technology and healthcare.

People are beginning to make health-conscious incremental changes to their lifestyles while they are young, in order to better themselves in the future.

Living a healthier lifestyle not only saves your life it saves you a ton of money on life insurance.

What is Considered Healthy to a Life Insurance Company?

Life insurance companies determine rates in a process called underwriting.

Underwriting is the process of calculating the overall risk someone poses to the insurance company having to pay out a claim during the life of their policy.

One of the main factors accounted for in the underwriting process is health.

Before we dive deeper into how different aspects of your health affect your life insurance rates, this infographic briefly explains what this article covers:

What Health Factors are Taken Into Consideration by Life Insurance Companies?

There are a lot of factors taken into consideration when determining someone’s overall health.  Life insurance companies typically take these main factors into account when determining risk:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Height – Weight ratio
  • Family history
  • Medical history
  • Smoker/non-smoker
  • Lifestyle

How Weight Affects Life Insurance Rates

Yes, how much you weigh plays an important role in your health.  

When it comes to weight and life insurance, a majority of life insurance companies look at BMI, or Body Mass Index, to calculate risk based on average weights based on your height.

The Center for Disease Control reports that more than one-third of Americans are considered obese.

This is an astonishing number but society has taken notice of this and, as a result, many people are changing their diets accordingly. Life insurance companies have taken notice too, they understand the health implications that can arise if someone is considered overweight or obese.

Diabetes, heart problems, and high blood pressure are just a few examples of health problems that can be caused by being overweight. Life insurance rates for obese and overweight people are often higher, and much higher with health complications resulting from their weight.

Some athletes have a higher BMI, and as a result, can be considered overweight or even obese when it comes to this quick weight analysis.

However, for people in fairly good health or better, a medical exam life insurance policy will be best for you anyways, in order to get the cheapest rates.

No medical exam life insurance exists, but this is mostly for people who are in poor health or need insurance very quickly. Much higher rates are associated with this type of life insurance as a result.

How Age Affects Life Insurance Rates 

When you apply for life insurance, insurance companies will attempt to determine your life expectancy – how long you are expected to live, given the information you provided.

Your life expectancy is calculated based on millions of data points that life insurance companies are able to compare.

Age has the greatest effects on the pricing of your policy because as your age increases so does your chances of passing away. Sad, but true.

This is why we recommend getting a life insurance policy while you are still young and in good health. So, what is the best age to purchase life insurance?

The optimal age to purchase life insurance is under 35. This is generally the age when people start a family and will have others depending on their income. Life insurance is best purchased when you are at low risk, and locking in rates at a young age is a great way to get insurance for your family at an affordable rate.

How Gender Affects Life Insurance Rates

Another characteristic that life insurance companies will look at when quoting you a price is your gender. Life insurance companies use statistical models to determine how long someone will be around.

Women live 5 years longer than men on average. As a result, women have lower life insurance premiums, because they can pay longer.

How much more expensive is life insurance for men?

Usually, men will experience 25-40% higher rates than women for life insurance, depending on age.

How Your Profession Affects Life Insurance Rates

Some professions put you at a higher life insurance risk than others. Some jobs that are considered to classify someone as a high risk individual are:

  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • Soldiers
  • Race car drivers
  • Astronauts
  • Pilots
  • Many more…

Unless your job is seriously dangerous, your profession probably does not affect your rate as much as you would think. Life insurance companies may add an additional fee to your policy that is subject to change as your position changes.

How Does Lifestyle Affect Life Insurance Rates?

Your occupation is only one portion of how risky your life is on a daily basis. Your lifestyle also helps determine your life insurance premiums.

Do you sit on the beach and read a book for fun? Or, are you an adrenaline junky who races speedboats, goes hang gliding, cliff dives, and goes mountain climbing?

The more dangerous of a lifestyle, the greater the opportunity for something to go wrong. Life insurance companies can see this as a liability which, in turn, would raise your premiums. If you do live life on the edge, there is a much greater benefit for having a life insurance policy.

How Your Driving Record Affects Your Life Insurance Rates

This may come as a surprise but your driving record is also taken into consideration when getting a quote for a life insurance policy. The average person spends 293 hours a year in a vehicle. That is 12 full days!

The road can be a dangerous place and the longer you are on the road, the higher the chance you have of getting into an accident. It’s just math.

Life insurance companies can access your driving record and see your past offenses of violated traffic laws. The last 3 to 5 years are weighted the heaviest, so it may be beneficial to keep a clean slate before you purchase a life insurance policy.

How Does Smoking Affect Your Life Insurance Rates?

Perhaps the factor that impacts life insurance rates the most, other than being terminally ill, is smoking. Smoking is a huge red flag in the life insurance industry because of the negative effects it has on your body.

Life insurance rates for smokers are often 2-5 times higher than for non-smokers.

Smoking can take years off of your lives. It is the leading cause of lung cancer and is responsible for 480,000 deaths per year. The average smoker in the United States dies 10 years earlier than the average nonsmoker.

Life insurance companies see how great a risk smoking is on your life, so they pass that risk along to you through your rates. Luckily for you, smoking is a habit that can be kicked. 

Smokers who quit can get their rates back down to only about 10-20% more expensive than non-smokers within the first year of quitting (barring any other health condition).

Those who have a policy and plan on quitting can also get reduced rates by re-taking your medical exam to get a reclassification for your medical risk. This also helps to reduce rates, though not every policy offers this.

Frequently Asked Questions About How Health Affects Life Insurance

As we stated earlier, the best time to  purchase life insurance is while you are young and in good health. Your personal health has an enormous effect on the rate of your policy because it directly correlates with how long you will live. It’s simple, the healthier you are the longer you will live.

Life insurance companies want to insure healthy people who are at a low risk of passing away early. 

Maybe you are not in the best shape of your life right now but you still need life insurance coverage. Do not worry, there are “no medical exam” life insurance policies that can cover you.

These policies tend to be more expensive but they are great to use for coverage while you making the climb to a healthy lifestyle.

Let’s get to commonly asked life insurance questions:

“Can’t I just lie about my health to get a better price?”

We highly recommend not lying to your life insurance company because once they find out (which they will) it can void your entire contract.

All of the money that you paid for the policy would be wasted and it would leave your family without this important coverage.

Life insurance companies have each applicant get a medical exam in order to verify all of the information submitted, as well as to determine any underlying medical conditions. Unless of course it is a no medical exam life insurance policy.

The medical exam can be done by a medical professional in the convenience of your own home. It generally takes thirty minutes to complete the exam. Twenty minutes allotted for the verbal questionnaire and ten minutes for the standard and basic sample collections.

The verbal questionnaire is done to get some background on your medical history. Life insurance companies will want to know the name, address and phone number of your primary care doctor so they can contact them for medical records, if needed. Questions range from your personal health history to that of your family’s.

What to Expect on Medical Exams for Life Insurance

It is good to be prepared for a medical exam for life insurance.

In medical exams for life insurance, you will first be asked a series of verbal questions, which typically include some of the ones listed below.

Frequently Asked Questions on Life Insurance Medical Exams

  • Are you routinely taking any medications?
  • Have you had any prior hospitalizations?
  • Do you suffer from any conditions like depression or anxiety?
  • Have you had any major previous procedures?
  • Does your family have a history of heart disease or cancer?

Once the verbal questionnaire is finished, the medical professional will begin the measurement procedures. Starting out with your basic measurements, they will measure your weight and height.

Once the initial measurements have been recorded, the medical professional will take a urine and/or blood sample to screen for several health indicators and conditions. Life insurance companies are looking for conditions such as HIV, AIDS, cholesterol levels, glucose levels, nicotine levels, and proteins.

Even though the sample is taken and the medical test is finished within thirty minutes, it typically takes about 1-3 months for a life insurance policy to be approved and in force. 

For those in need of quick life insurance coverage, there is accelerated underwriting life insurance policies such as guaranteed issue and simplified issue life insurance that can offer affordable life insurance protection in a quick time frame, usually under 2 weeks, and in some cases as quickly as 24 hours.

Can I Fail the Life Insurance Medical Exam?

The medical exam is not made for people to pass or fail. It is done so the life insurance company can determine how high of a risk you are for them to insure. If you are unhealthy you will not fail the exam but your rates will be higher because of it. 

However, if the information submitted on the original application does not match the data collected during the exam then you may be denied coverage or you may have to additional testing done.

Not only will living a healthy lifestyle save you money on your life insurance policy, it will keep you around your family longer. Take the time to make sure you are healthy before you get a quote from a life insurance company.

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