When you take out any insurance, insurers will work out how much of a risk you are to insure so they can decide whether or not to cover you and how much it should cost. This is what’s called the ‘underwriting’ process.

Income protection policies cover you in case you can’t work for any health reason. Since this is a health-related insurance product, insurers will need to know about your health history before agreeing to cover you. It’s important to be completely honest and accurate during this medical underwriting process to make sure you don’t invalidate your policy further down the line.

If you disclose that you have a low or high BMI when applying for income protection, what happens next depends on how low or high your BMI is. If it’s above or below certain insurer thresholds, you might find it more difficult or more expensive to get covered. This is because being overweight or underwriting could increase the likelihood of you developing other health conditions, and could even affect your life expectancy.

What is a low or high BMI?

BMI is a measure used to work out if your weight is healthy, based on a combination of your height and weight. You can calculate yours here. The ideal BMI for most adults is between 18.5 and 24.9. This is the healthy range. A BMI of below 18.5 puts you in the ‘underweight’ range; a BMI of between 25 and 29.9 puts you in the ‘overweight’ range; and a BMI of between 30 and 39.9 puts you in the ‘obese’ range.

Can I buy income protection insurance if I have a low or high BMI?

You might be able to buy income protection if you’ve got a low or high BMI – i.e. a BMI that sits above or below the healthy range – though the success of your application and how much it will cost you will vary from insurer to insurer based on what your BMI is. They’ve all got different thresholds. Everyone who applies for income protection has to answer questions about their:

  • Personal health history
  • Family health history
  • Height and weight (BMI)
  • Smoking status

An insurer will take all of these factors into account when looking at your application. A low or high BMI on its own might hold less bearing on your application than a low or high BMI combined with being a smoker and having a health condition, for example.

Anorak tip: Getting help from an adviser can really help if your BMI is considered low or high, as they’ll quickly be able to tell you which insurers are most likely to accept your application, and who offer the best terms for you and your circumstances.

What if I lose or gain weight?

If you need income protection, we wouldn’t recommend waiting to buy cover, regardless of your BMI. Having a healthier BMI might make your income protection premiums cheaper, but we don’t tend to recommend waiting to buy cover if you need it.

It’s almost always a case of the sooner, the better when it comes to financial protection. If you wait to gain or lose weight before applying, there could be other factors that increase your premiums by the time you get round to it, like your age or health.

How will a low or high BMI affect my income protection application?

Having a BMI that sits outside the healthy range could lead the insurer to add a loading to your monthly premiums, require further medical underwriting, or perhaps decline your application. The table below outlines the typical outcomes for specific BMIs:

BMI Typical outcome
Below 16 It’s likely the application would be declined
16-17 It’s likely the application would required further medical underwriting (e.g. a nurse screening)
18-30 It’s likely the application would be accepted as normal, with standard pricing rates
31-39 It’s likely the application would be accepted but with a ‘loading’ on the price (i.e. rates between 25% and 150% higher than for someone with a healthy BMI)
40 or higher It’s likely the application would be declined

Why are some people too high risk for insurers?

It’s true that having a BMI that’s too low or too high could make you ineligible for products like life insurance and income protection insurance, though this usually only happens in extreme cases. The same is true of other health conditions. The reason insurers exclude some people on the basis of their health is so that they can offer a product that is fairly priced for the majority of people.

What’s the logic behind this? People with an unhealthy BMI or an existing health condition (especially if it’s severe) are more likely to claim on health-related insurance products, so insurers would need to charge more in monthly premiums if they were to carry the risk of covering these people. A higher rate of claims by people with severe health issues would drive the price up for everyone. This is deemed unfair by insurers, so they tend to decline covering people with severe health issues.

Why it’s important to disclose your weight accurately

When applying for income protection insurance, it’s extremely important to answer all the health questions honestly. If you don’t disclose your weight accurately, in line with what’s in your medical records, you risk invalidating your policy and it not paying out in the future, when you need it to. The same applies to any other health condition you have.

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  • You can apply for income protection if you have a low or high BMI
  • Having a low or high BMI might make it more expensive or more difficult to get covered with income protection
  • As well as your BMI, insurers will also factor in whether or not you smoke and whether or not you (or your family) have any other health conditions when underwriting your policy
  • It’s very important to provide accurate information about your health and weight during the application process, otherwise you risk invalidating your policy in the future
  • Depending what your BMI is and several other factors, insurers may accept your application as normal; accept it but charge a higher premium; require further underwriting; or decline it
Do income protection companies check your weight?
Yes, you have to declare your height and weight when you apply for income protection, along with the rest of your health history. This is so insurers can determine your level of risk and how much you should pay to be insured.
What BMI do I need to get income protection?
To be eligible for income protection, a BMI of between 18 and 30 is ideal. A BMI of below 18 or above 30 could lead to it being more expensive to get covered, or you being ineligible with some insurers.
Does a low BMI affect income protection?
Yes, having a low BMI could affect you when applying for income protection. If your BMI is 17 or under, it’s likely you’ll be asked for additional medical information during underwriting. If it’s extremely low, you may be ineligible for income protection with some insurers.