Life insurance pays out as a lump sum if you die during the life of your policy. This means that when you apply for a policy, insurers will weigh up how likely it is that you will die during that time. This is so they can work out how much of a risk you are to insure – and therefore how much it should cost.

If you disclose that you’ve got a low or high BMI (body mass index) when you apply, this is something insurers will definitely consider carefully during the ‘underwriting’ process that all applications go through. This is because being underweight or overweight can increase the likelihood of you developing other health conditions, and affect your life expectancy. Depending how low or high your BMI is, you might find it more difficult or more expensive to get insured.

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 use the NHS calculator to work out yours. 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 life insurance if I’ve got a low or high BMI?

You should be able to buy life insurance if you’ve got a low or high BMI – i.e. a BMI that sits below or above 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 life insurance 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 another 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. At Anorak, our team of advisers is here to help you find the most suitable insurers and policies for you, whatever your circumstances.

What if I lose or gain weight?

If you have a need for life insurance because you’ve got financial dependents, you shouldn’t wait to buy cover, regardless of your BMI. It’s almost always a case of the sooner, the better when it comes to financial protection.

It’s true that your life insurance premiums might be cheaper if you have a healthier BMI – but 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. Plus, in the time that you’re waiting, you’re leaving your financial dependents unprotected.

The best idea is to take out life insurance as soon as you need it. This way, your loved ones are protected as soon as possible. If you go on to gain or lose weight in the future, you could always look to take out a new policy that doesn’t have a weight-related ‘loading’ added to the price – but again, remember that the premiums could have increased for a different reason by then.

How will a low or high BMI affect my life insurance application?

Typically, there are a few possible outcomes when you apply for life insurance but have a BMI that sits outside the healthy range. These can include:

  1. Your application being accepted as normal, with standard pricing rates (i.e. the same as they’d be for someone who doesn’t have a low or high BMI)
  2. Your application being accepted but with a ‘loading’ on the price (i.e. your rates could be between 50% and 150% higher than they would be for someone with a healthy BMI)
  3. Your application requiring further medical underwriting (i.e. a nurse screening)
  4. Your application being declined (this happens if the insurer thinks your BMI means you’ll always be too high risk to insure)

Applying for life insurance with a low or high BMI: key facts

Here are some common underwriting outcomes if your BMI is low or high when you submit your life insurance application:

  • If your BMI is under 17, insurers will usually request further medical information before making a decision
  • If your BMI is between 18 and 30, insurers will usually insure you without adding any loading to the price of your premiums
  • If your BMI is over 40, insurers will usually request further medical information before making a decision
  • If your BMI is over 45, insurers will decline your life insurance application
  • Insurers will see you as being even higher risk if you have other medical conditions (e.g. diabetes) on top of a low or high BMI
Anorak tip:
Everyone wants to protect their family's financial future. While having a low or high BMI might make it expensive to get health-related cover in place, like income protection and critical illness cover, you should still be able to buy affordable life cover to protect your family in case the worst happens. We can help you find the right insurer for you.

Why it’s important to disclose your weight accurately

When applying for life 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 life insurance 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 life insurance
  • Term life insurance pays out a lump sum if you die within the term of your policy
  • 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 life insurance companies check your weight?
Yes, you have to declare your height and weight when you apply for life insurance, 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 life insurance?
To be eligible for life insurance, 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 life insurance?
Yes, having a low BMI could affect you when applying for life insurance. 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 life insurance with some insurers.