What Factors Determine Your Life Insurance Premiums?


No matter how it may sometimes seem, life insurance premiums aren’t arbitrary. Insurance companies use various criteria to determine what your premiums will be, or if they will even approve you for a policy.

There are several factors used to determine your life insurance premiums, including the following:


Age is probably the single primary factor that determines your life insurance premiums. Since the policy will pay out upon your death, the insurance company wants to make sure that it won’t happen too soon. True enough, everyone will die sooner or later, but the company needs a sufficient number of years to pass – and the accumulation of the premiums you will pay in the meantime – that the policy will be adequately funded to pay the claim.

The older you are when you buy your policy, the higher the premium will be. That will be the case whether the policy you buy is term or whole life. By age 65 the premiums might be prohibitive, if the company will even be willing to accept the policy at all.


Statistically, women live longer than men so they will generally pay less in life insurance premiums for a policy with the same face value and at the same age as a man. Though the average life expectancy in the US is 77.97, the gap between men and women is substantial. The average life expectancy for men is 75.35 – for women it’s 80.51, a difference of slightly more than five years.

Physical condition

Life insurance premiums are also based on your weight, or at least the proportion of your weight to your height. There are ranges and a theoretical norm at the center, that indicate a “normal” proportion. To the degree your own height-to-weight ratio varies from the ideal range, you will pay more in premiums.


Smoking is a heavyweight negative when it comes to life insurance premiums. Smoking is closely linked to cardio vascular disease and to numerous forms of cancer. Premiums can increase by 15-20% as a result of cigarette smoking. And it’s not just smoking that raises premiums. Various health issues have been linked to chewing tobacco as well, so expect to see a higher rate if you participate in this activity as well.

It does help if you quit. Insurance companies will often lower your premium if you have quit for at least two years. Some even offer smoking cessation programs to help you along.

Your medical history

Your medical history – including any current health conditions – will have an effect on your premiums. That isn’t to say that any health conditions will result in higher premiums, but only those that have the potential to reduce your lifespan.

The insurance company will rely heavily on your answers provided on the medical questionnaire, so it’s important to be as truthful and accurate as possible. Companies will also often require a physical and will likely request a report from the Medical Information Bureau, or MIB. This report will provide a history of surgeries, hospital stays and known health conditions. Between your information given on the questionnaire, the results of your physical and the MIB report, they’ll have a pretty thorough assessment of your medical history.

It is important to mention that there are options for no exam life insurance in the market as well.

Your family’s medical history

Since so many heath conditions that affect longevity are genetic, the insurance company will be interested in your family’s medical history, in addition to yours. There is at least some predictive potential in studying family medical history – an otherwise healthy individual might develop certain medical conditions that are prevalent in the family tree.

The insurance company will be most interested in linear family – your parents, grandparents and siblings more than any others. Aunts, uncles and cousins aren’t considered as relevant, if their histories will even be considered at all.


Some occupations carry greater risk than others, and that will be a factor in determining premiums. An engineer might be considered a “safer” occupation than a police officer or fire fighter, where the risk of being killed on the job is higher.

It is even possible that a career that is considered too dangerous will result in a declined insurance application. The insurance companies are, after all, looking to build a client list comprised of the lowest risk customers possible.

Have you ever been charged higher rates – or even had an insurance application denied – as a result of any of the above?