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Obesity and life insurance – here’s what you need to know if you have a higher BMI

Obesity and life insurance – here’s what you need to know if you have a higher BMI

Aug 24, 2023

In recent years, obesity has become a growing issue in the UK.

The 2021 Health Survey for England estimated that 26% of adults in England are obese, while a further 38% are overweight but not obese.

“Overweight” normally means that you have a body mass index (BMI) of between 25 and 30, while a BMI of 30 or above usually classifies you as “obese”.

A recent report by the Daily Mail revealed that more than 1 million Brits are “too fat” for life insurance, while obese people who did find cover could find themselves paying two and a half times more than someone at a healthy weight.

If you have a higher BMI, it is possible to buy the life insurance you need, but you may need to seek out specialist help. Read on to find out more.

If your BMI is more than 25, you’re likely to be “overweight” or “obese”

The 2021 Health Survey for England found that men are more likely than women to be overweight or obese (68.6% of men, 59.0% of women). People aged 45 to 74 are most likely to be overweight or obese.

Source: House of Commons library

BMI is a tool that uses your height and weight to determine how healthy your weight is. According to the NHS, if your BMI is:

  • Below 18.5 you are in the underweight range
  • Between 18.5 and 24.9 you are in the healthy weight range
  • Between 25 and 29.9 you are in the overweight range
  • Between 30 and 39.9 you are in the obese range.

So, if your BMI is more than 25, you are likely to fall into either the “overweight” or “obese” category. This could make it more difficult for you to secure the life insurance you need.

This is because insurers ask a range of questions about your health when they underwrite your application.

The premiums, and even whether a provider will offer cover, is based on an assessment of risk, and people who are overweight or obese are more likely to be diagnosed with other serious health conditions such as:

  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Asthma
  • Kidney disease or liver disease
  • High blood pressure.

So, if your BMI is higher, what does this mean for your premiums and your ability to buy the cover you need?

A BMI over 30 means you’ll likely need to provide more information

If your BMI is 30 or less, you’ll normally be able to buy life insurance and pay the standard rate for the cover you need. Remember, though, that every insurer will assess applications on a case-by-case basis.

If you are overweight or obese, life insurance providers will likely request further information from you about your lifestyle and medical history. This will help them to determine what cover they can provide and the cost of your life insurance.

The Daily Mail reports that some life insurers will reject customers with a BMI of more than 38 – which falls in the category of obese. This means that there are more than 1 million people who could struggle to find the protection they need.

If an insurer does accept you, if you are classified as obese you could find yourself paying up to two and half times as much for the cover as someone with a healthy BMI.

The newspaper highlights two of the UK’s leading insurers – Aviva and Royal London – among the providers who charge additional premiums or even outright reject life cover.

A spokesman for Aviva said that BMI is considered as part of its underwriting process. She added: “This may result in a further adjustment to the customer’s premium or in certain scenarios means we are unable to offer cover.

“Being overweight or obese increases the likelihood of other serious health conditions.”

A spokesman for Royal London said: “Being overweight or underweight brings an increased risk of developing a range of different health conditions.

“As such, for some customers with a defined range, we may charge additional premiums or for the most significant risks we may be unable to offer cover.”

Speak to a life insurance expert for help

Each insurer has different criteria, and so just because you may have been declined for cover with one provider doesn’t necessarily mean that you couldn’t secure the cover you need elsewhere.

If you do have a higher BMI, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) suggests that speaking to an independent expert, such as I’m Insured could be beneficial.

An ABI spokesman said: “Whether to offer life insurance and at what price is a decision for individual insurers, who will take a number of considerations into account.

“If an insurer chooses not to provide cover, it could be for a variety of reasons such as health and lifestyle factors. If you’re struggling to access life insurance, a specialist provider may be able to help you find a suitable policy for your needs.”

This may be particularly beneficial if your BMI is over 40. Here, it is likely that your premiums will increase and that there will be fewer life insurance providers willing to offer you the cover that you need. In this case, it is best to speak to a life insurance expert for support with your options.

Nicky Bray, a chief underwriter for Zurich UK Life, told the Daily Mail that her firm tends to decline life insurance applicants with a BMI above 40.

She added: “For customers with high BMIs of over 38, applications will be referred to an underwriter to see if we can offer cover. The max BMI we would look to offer is 47 for any age.”

We work with dozens of the UK’s leading insurers and have helped many customers who are classified as “overweight” or “obese” to find the right policy for them.

Get in touch to find out how we can help.

If your BMI is higher, you’ll likely need to provide additional information to the insurer

BMI is not the only piece of information that an insurer will use when deciding whether to offer cover. However, if you do have a higher BMI, a provider may then ask you supplementary questions about your weight and your health.

For example, you may need to provide:

  • Your up-to-date BMI (ideally within six months)
  • Additional information about your lifestyle – for example, do you exercise regularly and what sort of exercise you do
  • Any pre-existing medical conditions you may have, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Any doctor or hospital visits you have had specifically concerning your weight or associated conditions.

It’s important to also note that BMI will not be the only factor that insurers will consider when deciding whether to offer cover.

Indeed, some doctors consider BMI to be a controversial measurement, as it can be too simplistic a tool to determine whether someone is overweight.

For example, professional rugby players can have very high BMIs because of their disproportionate muscle mass.

Get in touch for help with obesity life insurance

As a specialist broker, we can help you to find the cover you need. Whether you have been declined for life insurance based on your weight or BMI, or you’re worried about whether you’ll be eligible for cover, talk to one of our experts.

We excel at helping customers find the specialist life insurance they need, and can scour the market for you to benefit from the peace of mind that life insurance provides.

Get in touch today to find out how we can help.

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