Obesity and Life Insurance


Obesity is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome when it comes to life insurance. This is because the life insurance industry views it as one of the most serious health conditions. If you are currently classified as obese and want to purchase a life insurance policy, there will be some obstacles. It’s important to understand that those obstacles are not necessarily impossible to overcome.

What Is Obesity

According to the Centers For Disease Control, obesity is defined not so much by weight, but rather by body mass index, or BMI. According to the CDC, obesity is broken down as follows:

  • An adult who has a BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight.
  • An adult who has a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered to be a healthy weight.
  • An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
  • An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

Now it would be tempting to say that since BMI is the official measuring stick for obesity, that weight no longer matters. But of course we know that isn’t true. BMI is closely tied to body weight, so how much you weigh still matters plenty.

But beyond the CDC definition of obesity, each life insurance company tends to view obesity in a different way. Not just different from how the CDC views it, but even from one insurance company to another.

The Risks Associated With Obesity

In and of itself, obesity is not fatal, and certainly not in any immediate sense. However, it is a foundational health condition that can lead to the types of diseases and advanced health conditions that can become fatal.

For example, obesity is closely associated with cardiovascular disease and stroke. Excess weight puts greater stress on both the heart and the circulatory system, and can eventually cause permanent weakness in both.

Another major weight related disease is Type II diabetes. The exact causes of Type II diabetes are not fully understood, but it is generally believed that obesity is a major contributing factor to its onset.

The development of such diseases can cause premature death, which can make an obese person in unacceptable risk from a life insurance standpoint.

How Life Insurance Companies View Obesity

Life insurance companies are unlikely to look at the CDC chart on obesity, and make a decision strictly based on the BMI numbers. Rather, each company will have its own guidelines as to what constitutes obesity, and to what extreme they would be prepared to insure someone characterized as obese.

Another classification that may be even more critical is morbid obesity. This is obesity that is in such an advanced stage, that it is widely recognized to represent an impending health threat. If you weigh at a level at which an insurance company considers you to be morbidly obese, your application will most likely be declined.

However, you may still be approved for a policy if you are classified as obese, but not morbidly obese. Of course, you should fully expect to pay a higher premium than someone who is at a healthy weight.

Even if you are obese, the general state of your health will be a major factor. If obesity is your only health condition, then your application will likely be approved. But if other health risks have set in, you will be looking at either much higher premiums, or the very real possibility of a decline.

Does Losing Weight Help?

In a word, yes! But it’s not quite as clear-cut as it seems. Let’s say that you are 5 feet 10 inches tall, and weigh 250 pounds. You apply for a life insurance policy but are rejected due to your weight. You go on a crash diet and lose 50 pounds in the next eight months, dropping your weight down to a more comfortable 200 pounds – then reapply. You should be good to go, right?

Not necessarily. Since your weight will have changed substantially in just a few months, the life insurance company will not completely disregard your old weight. What they will most likely do is average your old weight of 250 pounds with your new weight of 200 pounds, and decide you weigh 225 pounds for life insurance purposes.

That will likely get your application approved, but you’ll still pay a higher premium due to the excess weight.

Even though you just lost a substantial amount of weight – which is normally a very good sign – the company recognizes the fact that people who are overweight can experience rapid weight gain after losing weight. For that reason, they will assume that your new low weight isn’t entirely permanent.

Work with the Right Insurance Broker

Even if you are considered to be obese according to the CDC chart, or any other measure, don’t assume that you won’t be able to get life insurance. There are many companies that provide life insurance, and each has a different view of obesity. Some may decline you out right, others will charge a higher premium, but others will increase the premium only moderately.

This is where knowing who the best life insurance companies are for your situation becomes critically important. As a life insurance broker, we know who those companies are. If you are overweight, or even obese, give us a call and we can help present some options. Life insurance is what we do, so let us help you find the best policy for the lowest premium possible.