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Yes, your height and weight (BMI) can impact your life insurance rates. Your BMI is a quick indicator of many possible current and future health issues, so life insurance companies take it into consideration when determining your risk class.

What is BMI?

BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a score that estimates the amounts and types of tissues that make up a person’s weight. Because this score can help doctors estimate the relative percentage of body fat a person has, it’s a very effective way to quickly see how healthy a person’s build is compared to the average population.

This score is typically used to categorize people into one of four weight classes ranging from underweight to normal weight to overweight and obese.

BMIWeight Status
Below 18.5Underweight
18.5 - 24.9Normal
25.0 - 29.9Overweight
30.0 and aboveObese

BMI is such a widespread metric for evaluating a person’s weight that it is used by almost every major life insurance company as part of the process of setting term life insurance rates for their clients.

Why does BMI matter for life insurance?

Your BMI tells the life insurance underwriter if you maintain a healthy weight or not. According to the CDC, the correlation between a high BMI and the likelihood of developing dangerous health conditions is strong.

People who are obese are at increased risk for many diseases and health conditions, including the following:

These conditions affect quality of life, morbidity, and mortality, which is why life insurance companies may place you in a higher risk class, and therefore pay higher rates, if you’re carrying too many extra pounds.

However, just because the CDC says you’re overweight, doesn’t mean life insurance companies will. Each life insurance company has what is called a Build Chart that they follow when underwriting an applicant. These charts are created based off BMI numbers but are not solely reliant upon them.

Below is an example of one company’s life insurance build chart. It shows you the height and weight requirements to receive certain risk classes.

For example, if you are 5 feet 7 inches and weigh 185 pounds or less, you could qualify for the best risk class, Preferred Plus. However, according to the CDC BMI calculator, being 5’7” and 185 pounds gives you a BMI of 29 which means you’re overweight. Life insurance companies are a little more accepting than the CDC.

Sample life insurance build chart

BMI isn’t a perfect system. In life insurance, it’s only used to give a rough idea of an average person’s body type. If you’re taller or shorter than average, for example, or if you’re extremely athletic with a low percentage of body fat, BMI doesn’t always provide an accurate measurement. This is because the equation only compares you against the average and can’t give you a full picture of your health.

Your current health history, not just height and weight, is also used to determine the cost of your life insurance policy.

This means that if you’ve recently lost a lot of weight, insurance companies will note all of the progress you’ve made but will also be on the lookout to see if there’s a possibility that you could gain all of that weight back.

This protects insurers against people who would try to use extreme dieting to try and slip under a weight guideline right before applying for life insurance. Insurers want to be confident that you’ll keep the weight off before they offer to insure you.

» Learn more: Can I Get Life Insurance After Weight-Loss Surgery?

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Can I buy life insurance if I am overweight or obese?

Yes, you will likely still be able to qualify for life insurance if you’re overweight or obese. However, your life insurance rates will be higher than someone of average weight.

Consider the life insurance rates in the table below for someone of average BMI, overweight BMI, and obese BMI.

 

Rates for $500,000 20-Year Term Life Insurance Policy determined by BMI

Applicant:Policy Cost:
Male, non-smoker, age 35
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 170
BMI: 24.2 (healthy)
Qualifies for Preferred Plus

Monthly Rate: $20.73
Male, non-smoker, age 35
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 205
BMI: 29.4 (overweight)
Qualifies for Preferred

Monthly Rate: $25.76
Male, non-smoker, age 35
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 250
BMI: 35.9 (obese)
Qualifies for Standard

Monthly Rate: $39.20

However, keep in mind that these rates are based on height and weight alone. It does not take into consideration any health problems the individual may have. For example, if the applicant with a BMI of 35.9 has heart disease or has had a stroke in the past, they will not qualify for Standard.

» Learn more: Life Insurance and Obesity

Insurance companies also offer table ratings in an effort to accept as many applicants as possible. If you’re table rated, this means you’re accepted at a higher level of risk than average and will pay a certain percentage on top of the Standard rate.

Table ratings run 1-10 or A-J, depending on the insurer. Each increase in rating, increases the rate by 25%.

Example:

Tom is 35 years old and doesn’t smoke. He is six feet tall and weighs 250 pounds. He also has well-controlled type 2 diabetes.

He applies for a 20-year $250,000 term life insurance policy.

Without the diabetes diagnosis, Tom may have qualified for a Standard risk class and paid approximately $25 per month for coverage. However, since he also has a health condition alongside being overweight, the insurance company offers Table C.

Table C means he will pay 75% on top of the Standard rate.

His 20-year $250,000 term policy will cost Tom approximately $44 per month.

» Calculate: Life insurance needs calculator

Should I lose weight before applying for life insurance?

No. Apply for life insurance even if you’re overweight.

There is no cost to apply, and you can always decide to decline the insurance company’s offer if the premiums are too high.

If you can afford the premiums, even if they are higher than you expected, we recommend that you accept the coverage. If you have a weight loss goal you’re working toward, apply again in a couple years. If you are approved and offered a better rate, accept the new policy and you can cancel the old one.

» Learn more: Can I Save Money on Life Insurance if I Lose Weight?

You don’t want to risk becoming uninsurable and not be able to financially protect your loved ones.

Life insurance is important for everyone, but especially if you have people relying on you. If you were to die unexpectedly, your family would be emotionally devastated, but life insurance can at least eliminate the financial stress.

Contact us for help on applying for life insurance, or simply start by running a term life insurance quote. Running a quote on Quotacy.com is completely anonymous. We do not require any contact information until you are ready to apply.

Term life insurance is something you hope to never need to use, but if the unexpected happens your loved ones will be financially protected.

Note: Life insurance quotes used in this article are accurate as of September 23, 2022. These are only estimates and your life insurance costs may be higher or lower.

About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius, CLU

Senior Editor and Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Natasha Cornelius, CLU, is a writer, editor, and life insurance researcher for Quotacy.com where her goal is to make life insurance more transparent and easier to understand. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been writing about life insurance since 2014. Natasha earned her Chartered Life Underwriter designation in 2022. She is also co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. Connect with her on LinkedIn.