Unfortunately, when you are applying for life insurance, it isn’t just your health that comes under the microscope. Your family history is also a factor. That means that even if your personal health history is flawless, you can still be charged a higher premium if a member of your direct family lineage has a history of a significant health problem.
Though there’s much you can do to maintain your own good health – proper diet, regular exercise, getting adequate sleep, and regularly consulting with healthcare professionals – there isn’t anything you can do about the health of your relatives.
But how much does family history affect life insurance premiums?
Your Family History Can Affect Your Life Insurance Premiums
It’s unfortunate but heredity can play a role in the case of certain chronic and potentially life-threatening illnesses. If there is a strong family history of incurring such illnesses, life insurance companies will generally consider that potential in underwriting a policy for you, even though you may have never contracted the illness, or show any signs of doing so.
It’s important to realize however exactly what family history history covers. It’s generally not aunts, uncles and cousins, but rather parents, siblings, and sometimes grandparents. Those are your most direct family relations, with the strongest correlation of heredity.
There may also be an age limit even in regard to your relatives. For example, most life insurance companies are most concerned with chronic illnesses in family members who are under the age of 60. More particularly they are concerned with family members under 60 who have died from certain diseases known to have genetic components.
Since life insurance policies payout upon death, underwriting will be most concerned with a family history of early death, particularly before the age of 60. They will generally be less concerned with family members who may succumb to genetic diseases after living what is considered to be a full lifespan. For example, if one of your parents died from the stroke at the age of 83, that will be much less of a concern than a sibling who died from cancer at the age of 54.
The second scenario is one that would result in your life insurance premium being increased. The first scenario would likely have no effect at all, since it does not suggest an early death for you.
What becomes problematic – and unfortunate – is when a direct family member experiences early death as a result of lifestyle choices that contributed to the disease. For example, a chronic smoker who develops lung cancer, or a heavy drinker who develops heart problems at an early age.
Don’t omit your family’s health history on the application! Should you die and your family needs to collect on the policy, the insurance company could void the claim if there is a significant family health history related to the illness that was the cause of your death.
The Big Two: Heart Disease and Cancer
In underwriting a life insurance application, the insurance company will be concerned with various health conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and others. The two biggest concerns are heart disease and cancer. This is because these are the two leading causes of death in America, and because both can lead to early mortality.
Unfortunately, if you have a family history in which several members of your family have developed either disease before turning 60, you could be hit with a higher premium as a result. There won’t be much you can do about it either, since it will be something that affected other people, and is beyond your control.
Heart Disease in the Family History
The connection between family history and heart disease can be significant. If a member of your immediate family has experienced a heart attack, angioplasty (the implantation of a stent to relieve a blocked coronary artery), bypass surgery, valve surgery, or arrhythmia, there is a potential genetic connection.
The complication here is that heart disease is at least as likely to be the result of poor lifestyle choices. For example, if there are several members of your family who are smokers, overweight, have poor diets, and never exercise, all of these factors can contribute to the existence of heart disease.
Unfortunately, life insurance company underwriters may not be aware of the influence of poor lifestyle choices. Even though your family’s heart conditions may be primarily attributable to lifestyle, it can appear as a genetic problem if it’s fairly common. For example, if three out of six immediate family members have heart conditions prior to turning 60, it would appear to be a genetic problem that may affect you.
It’s equally unfortunate, but also true, that lifestyle choices tend to run in families. For example, if your parents are obese, cigarette smokers, or heavy consumers of alcohol, it is highly likely that one or more of your siblings will follow the same patterns. This can lead to the onset of health problems that will appear to be genetic.
Cancer in the Family History
There may be a stronger case to be made for heredity in regard to cancer. This is especially true of certain cancers, such as breast, colon, lung, pancreatic, prostate, and ovarian cancers. There is at least some evidence that each of these cancers runs in families. If two or more members of your immediate family have any of these cancers, the genetic link may be assumed by the insurance company.
However it is also true that some cancers are also linked to lifestyle choices. For example, lung cancer is one of the most obvious. It’s closely associated with consumption of tobacco, so if your family are chain smokers, lung cancer is not an unlikely outcome.
Melanoma is another type of cancer that is closely associated with behavior. If you have family members who spend a lot of time out in the sun, without proper protection, they run a higher risk of contracting skin cancer. Even so however, melanoma does have a genetic factor. If your family are particularly light-skinned, they will be more likely to contract that particular form of cancer.
Choosing the Right Insurance Company Will Make All the Difference
If cancer, heart disease, or other genetically linked illnesses do exist in your family, it will be more important than ever that you are proactive in regard to maintaining your own health. That means avoiding high-risk behaviors, such as smoking and heavy alcohol consumption. It also means maintaining proper weight, eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise, and doing your best to keep your stress levels on the moderate side.
Beyond that, your most important strategy in applying for life insurance is to make application with the right companies. The fact is, some companies make a strong connection between family health history and your own situation. But others will assign a lower priority, and some even disregard it entirely.
If you have a family history of hereditary diseases, particularly heart disease and cancer, you want to be sure that you apply with the companies that are most likely to disregard family health history. The problem is that as an individual, you cannot be aware of which companies those are.
That’s where we can help. Life insurance is what we do, and we know the companies that are likely to take the most favorable view of your situation, whatever it is. That will enable us to get you the best life insurance policy for the lowest premium. Give us a call, and put our experience to work for you.