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Height and weight: How they impact life insurance

May 20, 2021 5 Minute Read

Wondering what the numbers on your scale have to do with your life insurance eligibility? For insurers, your height and weight are important factors in deciding which policies are a good fit and the price you’ll pay.

While every company treats height and weight differently, they all use this information to help determine your life insurance health class and rates. Here’s what to know if you’re thinking about buying a policy.

How do height and weight impact life insurance rates?

Life insurance companies pay attention to your height and weight because they play a big role in your overall health and life expectancy. Since your insurance company provides a cash payout to your beneficiaries if you die while the policy is active, it wants to know about anything that could cause you to die sooner.

Today, two out of every three American adults are either overweight or obese, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Being overweight or obese is linked with many of the leading causes of preventable premature death, including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer. Your life insurance company takes all that into consideration, along with other information on your health and lifestyle, to determine your eligibility and rates.

How do life insurance underwriters use height and weight charts?

Many people are familiar with the concept of body mass index (BMI), which measures body fat in relation to your height. A person who has a BMI over 25 typically is considered overweight, and person with a BMI over 30 is considered obese.

BMI is a common way to determine whether someone is overweight, but it has some limitations. BMI can provide skewed results for:

  • People who lift weights. Muscle is much denser than fat, which means someone who’s trim but muscular can weigh the same as someone who’s bigger with lower muscle levels. Since BMI doesn’t distinguish between muscle and fat, weight-lifters can end up mistakenly labeled as overweight or obese.
  • People of different genders and ethnicities. Men and women carry weight differently, as do people of different races and ethnicities. Rather than using BMI as a universal guide, some experts believe your waist circumference is a better gauge of overall health.

When you apply for life insurance, your insurance company will use its own method for assessing your health. While a few insurance companies use BMI when calculating your life insurance rates, most companies use their own height and weight charts, also called “build charts.” Insurers use build charts during the life insurance underwriting process to help determine your life insurance class, which then determines your rate for life insurance.

Build charts vary by company, which means you may fall into more favorable life insurance weight limits with some insurers than others. These charts also tend to be more forgiving than BMI. In some cases, a person who is obese by BMI standards can still qualify for competitive rates.

Can insurance companies deny you coverage for being overweight?

Height and weight are just one part of the puzzle of determining risk for life insurance companies. Depending on your situation, though, an insurer may turn down your application if your weight is over their weight guidelines.

If you have a high BMI, but it’s because you are very tall or very short, ask the insurance company to use other data – such as your blood tests – to determine your overall health. If you are overweight and receive a denial, there are still options available in many cases.

First, be upfront with your insurer. There’s no benefit in fudging your numbers on your application, since insurers will use medical exams and other third-party sources to verify your information. If they catch these errors, they may deny your application altogether. Worse, if it comes out after your death that information on your application was inaccurate, your insurer could potentially deny your family’s claim.

So, what do you do if you are overweight? There may still be solutions for you:

  • Apply for a policy anyway. You may qualify, even if rates are slightly higher.
  • Choose a no exam policy. These don’t require a medical examination, making it easier to get covered if you’re overweight or have health concerns.
  • Lose weight and reapply for a policy. If you were denied or the rate was too high, work to lose weight if you can. That can help you qualify for a better rate (and it may even help extend your life, too!).

It helps to work with an agency like eFinancial that can help you compare multiple policies to find the best fit for your situation and budget, including term life and permanent life options. Don’t allow height and weight insurance guidelines to deter you from getting the life insurance policy that’s right for your family’s needs.

Still have questions or want more information?

We’re here to help. Call us or start your quote online today.

At eFinancial, our goal is to make life insurance simple, affordable, and understandable for everyday families. This content is intended for educational purposes only. Each post is carefully fact-checked, reviewed and updated regularly to ensure the information is as relevant as possible.