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More than one-third of all adults in the United States are obese. Unfortunately, it’s even a problem among children.

Obesity not only causes health consequences, but emotional, social, and economic effects. Getting life insurance coverage while obese can be challenging.

Obesity in Children

For children and teens aged 2-19, 18.5% are obese. While this percentage doesn’t sound like a huge number, that’s actually 13.7 million kids. Five years ago this number was 12 million. 

Studies show that obese children are more likely to be obese as adults as well. Obesity in the U.S. has been increasing throughout the years, becoming an epidemic.

Obesity in Adults

Over 70 million adults in U.S. are obese (35 million men and 35 million women). Obesity is a chronic health problem.

Obesity is more than just about being overweight. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, cancer, stroke, and numerous other impairments.

While we know obesity takes a toll on one’s health, it also hurts the wallet. Data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey states that that medical costs per obese individual rose from $3070 to $3508 in five years.

See what you’d pay for life insurance

Comparison shop prices on custom coverage amounts from the nation’s top carriers with Quotacy.

Obesity and Life Insurance

Because obesity can cause medical conditions, an individual’s height and weight is required information when applying for life insurance. Combined, height and weight is a very important factor the life insurance company considers when it comes to determining someone’s cost of life insurance.

» Learn more: Height and Weight & Your Life Insurance Application

Obesity is determined by your Body Mass Index (BMI) which is calculated from your height and weight. Life insurance underwriters consider obesity to be a risk factor and the premium costs may reflect that, or an applicant may be declined altogether.

Let’s take a look at some examples.

Case Study #1

Applicant One, who is a 52-year-old non-smoker with a history of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea, underwent successful gastric bypass five years ago with a resultant loss of 65 pounds. Glucose and hemoglobin A1C values have normalized and a recent sleep study showed marked improvement of sleep apnea.

The applicant is 5 foot 10 inches tall and weighs 225 pounds, which comes out to a BMI of 32.3.

Although the applicant is still considered obese with this BMI, the surgery was successful and there are signs of improvement in the obesity-related conditions.

Applicant may qualify for Standard Plus Non Tobacco.

Case Study #2

Applicant Two is 38-years-old, 5 feet tall, weighs 250 pounds (BMI is 48.9), and has poorly controlled diabetes.

Hospitalization was recently required for elevated blood pressure that caused severe headaches. Prior weight loss attempts were unsuccessful.

This applicant is a decline.

Case Study #3

Applicant Three is 45-years-old, 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds (BMI is 24.3).

While in his 20s, he weighed 230 pounds (BMI 35.0), but when a colleague suffered from a heart attack, he changed his eating habits, began an exercise program, and has been able to maintain his current weight for many years.

He can qualify for Preferred Plus.

Getting Life Insurance Coverage

Obesity doesn’t always mean an automatic decline. Underwriters will take the applicant’s past health into consideration, along with what the applicant is currently doing to improve his/her health.

Regarding obesity and life insurance, there’s something to keep in mind if you’ve recently voluntarily lost a considerable amount of weight and plan on applying for life insurance.

Even if your weight loss was due to diet and exercise, and/or surgical intervention, most life insurance companies will average your weight over the last 12 months versus only considering your current weight.

They go this route because some people are not successful maintaining weight loss. If an applicant has kept the weight off for two years or more, many life insurance carriers will then assess them on their current weight.

We recommend you apply for life insurance now and accept the coverage, even if the premiums are a bit high. If you have a weight loss goal you’re working toward, apply again in a couple years. If you are offered a better rate, accept the new policy and you can cancel the old one.

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 accurate as of March 4, 2021. 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.