BMI and life insurance: what’s one got to do with the other? Your BMI, body mass index, plays a large role in how much you end up paying in monthly life insurance premiums. In some cases, it can even lead to being denied coverage altogether. Why does BMI play such a crucial role in life insurance rates and approval?
Read on to find out more (and if you are in doubt if you can get coverage, just go ahead and get a quote from us, it’s quick, free and we are very flexible when it comes to this).
What is BMI?
According to the CDC, BMI is “a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.” In other words, it’s a type of measurement of body fat. While BMI doesn’t measure body fat exactly, it can be used as a screening tool for weight categories, including underweight, normal, overweight, and obese. These categories act as general indicators for health issues that may be more likely to arise given your current grouping.
The standard BMI chart is as follows (as per the CDC):
|18.5 - 24.9||Normal|
|25 - 29.9||Overweight|
How to Calculate Your BMI
BMI is calculated by the straightforward formula of kg/m2 — that is, your weight in kilograms, divided by your height in meters squared (As you can see, the BMI formula was created using the metric system).
But you don’t need to do the actual math — if you’re curious to know what your BMI is, you can use this online BMI calculator.
Why Does BMI Affect Life Insurance Costs?
In the health field, BMI is used as an indicator of potential health problems that might occur in the future given your weight category. Life insurance underwriters ask for your BMI for the same reason. They want to see what potential health issues are on the horizon so they use life insurance height & weight charts to determine your rates, which are ultimately related to your life expectancy (and why some people get much cheaper life insurance, such as runners or athletes).
How Underwriters Determine Life Insurance Rates
Here’s how life insurance rates work: When you apply for life insurance, you are asked to fill out a detailed application with questions about your health and medical history, and you must also undergo a medical exam (unless you choose no exam life insurance, in which case the exam is waived).
Insurance companies need to know as much about your health as possible, specifically when it comes to term life insurance because the entire business model is based on people living and companies not having to pay out death benefits.
Statistically, the healthier someone is, the less likely they are to die early. So when an insurer grants coverage to someone in great health, the statistical odds are in everyone’s favor: that person won’t die early, and the insurer won’t need to pay out the death benefit.
Mortality Risks and Life Insurance Premiums
A person in good health is statistically likely to live longer than someone who’s not in good health, which means that this person poses less of a risk to the insurer (in terms of paying out the death benefit). Since the risk to the company is low, they are charged lower premiums.
A person who has health issues, on the other hand, is “penalized” for them, and this comes in the form of higher monthly premiums. Of course, it’s not really penalization, but how insurance companies cover their risk.
If a life insurance company offers coverage to people who have serious health problems, it’s taking on a big risk. The statistical likelihood that the insurer will need to pay out the death benefit is high. Therefore, they charge these customers higher premiums to cover their risk.
BMI’s Impact on Life Insurance Rates
So now we’re getting the idea of why BMI has such a large impact on life insurance rates. While you can’t look at someone’s BMI and get an entire picture of their overall health, you can look at it and say, statistically, x and x health issues are on the horizon.
Obese people, for example, are at heightened risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, certain cancers, and more, according to WebMD. At the other extreme, Healthline indicates that underweight people are at heightened risk for malnutrition, osteoporosis, weakened immune systems, and more. Either extreme carry health risks that will impact the life insurance rates of these applicants.
Other factors that affect life insurance rates include:
- Type of life insurance policy
- Length of policy (relevant for term life insurance only)
- Smoking status
- Family health history
- Your own health history
Life insurance underwriters examine all of these factors, along with your current health, to arrive at a customized monthly premium for you.
Can You Get Life Insurance if You Are Overweight or Have a High BMI?
Falling within the normal BMI range (meaning average weight) is obviously ideal when it comes to qualifying for life insurance, and for lower rates. Falling slightly below or above is also not likely to make much of an impact when it comes to approval and rates, unless you have other pre-existing health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and more.
It’s when you fit into one of the extreme categories that your rates are likely to rise significantly. According to Healthline, 36.5% of American adults are obese, and another 32.5% are overweight, which means that these are the most prevalent scenarios.
While a high BMI doesn’t guarantee you’ll get higher insurance rates, the potential to develop serious health conditions or the existence of current health conditions make it likely. If you are morbidly obese and/or have additional pre-existing conditions, the life insurance company may decide that you pose too much of a risk, and deny your application.
If this happens, don’t lose hope. You still have several options. The first is to apply to a different insurer. Not all insurance companies have the same rules, so you can try applying to a different company to see if it is more lenient.
Another option is to apply for no exam life insurance, which comes in both term and whole policies and doesn’t require a medical exam. Some policies require a few health details, while others require none.
Depending on your specific situation, you can choose the one that’s best for you. You can read more about no exam life insurance here.
There’s no getting around it: your BMI will affect your life insurance rates, and possible acceptance by the insurer. The good news is, being slightly overweight or underweight won’t make a big difference in your rates. If you’re in great health other than a slightly abnormal BMI, your rates might not be affected at all. It’s only extreme cases of obesity plus pre-existing conditions that will disqualify you from coverage. And even in those cases, you still have options.