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How does my weight affect the cost of my life insurance policy?

Do you prefer to learn by watching? We answer this question in a video below. Click here to jump ahead.

Life insurance pricing is based on risk. The closer you are statistically to death, the higher your premiums will be. Many factors go into calculating the risk of a specific individual and one of the most important factors is a person’s body mass index (BMI).

» Learn more: What Are the Risk Factors that Affect Buying Life Insurance?

What is BMI?

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height. This calculation applies mainly to men and women over the age of 20. You can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to calculate your BMI. The table below shows what the BMI number means for your weight status.

BMI Weight Status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5-24.9 Normal
25.0-29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese

Why Does BMI Matter?

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 will increase rates for those with too many extra pounds. However, just because the CDC claims you are 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.

» Calculate: Life insurance needs calculator

Below is an example of a Build Chart and shows what kind of risk class a life insurance company would offer an individual based on their height and weight. 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 means you are overweight. Life insurance companies are a little more accepting than the CDC.

Sample life insurance build chart for Quotacy blog Height & Weight and Life Insurance

How Accurate Do I Have to Be?

When you run a term quote online, you manually enter your height and weight, along with a few other tidbits of information, and the magical algorithms calculate the numbers and show you your estimated cost of life insurance with each of our carriers.

Now, a good portion of the population fudges their numbers a little when it comes to your driver’s license. No real harm comes from this, but not so when it comes to applying for life insurance.


Jane Smith is 30-years-old and is 5 foot 5 inches tall and weighs 185 pounds; however, when she runs a term quote online she fudges her numbers a bit to get a lower premium payment and says she is 170 pounds. At 170 pounds she is quoted $19 per month for a 20-year, $500,000 policy. She applies.

When the medical examiner comes and records that she really is 185 pounds, not 170, Jane will find that her actual premiums will not be $19 per month, but closer to $23 per month.

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We understand not everyone weighs themselves frequently. Some people might not be sure how much they actually weigh, but you have a general idea. Being off by a few pounds is different than being off by twenty.

The above example happens more often than one might think. Someone is less than truthful about their height and weight on their life insurance application, and then after their medical exam and after the underwriter reviews their medical records, the life insurance company offers them a policy with a higher premium cost than their online quote stated.

» Compare: Term life insurance quotes

We hate delivering bad news. Be as accurate as possible when you run quotes and when you decide to apply. The life insurance company will find out if you misrepresent your height or weight and then you’ll be bummed to hear when your underwritten premiums are higher than your quoted premiums.

At Quotacy, we want you to have the best experience possible and you need to help us in doing so by being honest on your application. We will work hard to get you approved for a great life insurance policy.

» Learn more: Life Insurance and Obesity

Watch the Life Insurance and Weight Video

Video Transcript

Welcome to Quotacy’s Q&A Friday where we answer your life insurance questions. Quotacy is an online life insurance agency where you can get life insurance on your terms.

I’m Jeanna and I’m Natasha.

Today’s question is:
How does my weight affect buying life insurance?

Being very overweight or very underweight can create health issues. When you apply for life insurance the insurance company evaluates your overall health, which includes your weight, to determine how much of a risk you are to insure.

The cost you pay for life insurance is determined by your risk class. Your individual health and lifestyle factors can both positively and negatively impact your risk class.

For example, if you don’t smoke and have no current medical issues your risk is lower than that of the average person and you can qualify for a better risk than Standard. If your mother died of liver cancer before age 50 and you binge drink your risk will be considered higher than that of the average person and you may be considered a Substandard risk.

The relationship between your height and weight is called your build. Each life insurance company has their own build chart they use as reference when evaluating an applicant’s risk class.

Sample life insurance build chart for Quotacy blog Height & Weight and Life Insurance

If your build is average it becomes a neutral factor and doesn’t impact your price. When we say it’s a neutral factor here’s what we mean: as life insurance underwriters evaluate an applicant they assign credits and debits based on health and lifestyle factors. The more debits you have, the higher your premiums.

For example, skydiving as a hobby would be a debit. Having healthy blood pressure would be a credit. If you’re overweight this would be a debit. However, being a normal weight doesn’t provide a credit. It’s just not factored into calculations.

When you apply for life insurance, be as accurate as possible.

Let’s be real. A good portion of the population fudges their numbers a little when it comes to applying for their driver’s license. But don’t do this when you’re applying for life insurance.

If you provide inaccurate height and weight information on your life insurance application and then your medical exam and health records show you are off by a significant amount it will change your price. And we don’t want to be the bearers of bad news when this happens, so just be honest from the get-go.

Now, insurance companies also understand that not everyone weighs themselves on a daily basis and some people honestly may not be sure how much they weigh when they’re filling out their application. But being off by a few pounds is different than being off by 20.

If you do try and get away with fudging your numbers a bit and are caught – don’t panic. You aren’t then automatically declined for life insurance. You can still get coverage but your premiums will reflect your actual build and not the inaccurate build you may have used to get your initial quote.

» Compare: Term life insurance quotes

In addition, it’s not uncommon for people to think:

I plan on losing 20 pounds this year. I’ll wait to buy life insurance until then.

While intentions are good, not everyone actually accomplishes their goals.

Buying life insurance isn’t something you want to delay. Your costs increase as you get older and health issues may creep in. Also, the longer you wait, the longer your loved ones go unprotected. What we recommend instead is to buy life insurance as soon as you need it then later on if you lose the weight you can reapply to see if you can get lower premiums.

There’s another reason why you shouldn’t delay and not many people know this industry secret. Even if you lose those 20 pounds, the life insurance companies won’t give you full credit right away.

Life insurance companies want to see stable weight history before taking significant weight loss into full consideration. They’ll review your medical records to determine if you’re a yo-yo dieter. If you have a history of extreme weight fluctuation this will affect their decision making.

If you work hard and lose the weight life insurance companies will want to see that you can maintain your new status for a minimum of a year before they’ll calculate your premiums with your new most recent weight.

If you lose ten pounds or more within a 12-month period and apply for life insurance, the insurance companies will typically cut that amount in half when calculating how much your coverage will cost.

For example, if you weighed 210 pounds January 1st and then apply for life insurance on July 1st weighing 190 pounds the life insurance company will consider your weight to be 200 pounds.

If you lose weight and are able to maintain it for over a year life insurance companies are much more willing to offer you a better risk class a.k.a. lower pricing. However, keep in mind that other factors, like your age, are still considered.

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

Hop on over to Quotacy.com and use our term life insurance quoting tool to see how your weight and height affect life insurance pricing. Keep in mind, however, that more complex factors, such as heart disease or history of substance abuse, are not factored into online quoting tools. There are too many variables to calculate accurately. So while you can get a rough estimate of what term life insurance might cost you the online quote may not be your final price.

Apply online and your Quotacy agent will be able to review your application before sending it into the insurance company and confirm that the company you chose to apply to best fits with your unique situation. If there’s an insurance company that we think will give you a more favorable price your agent will provide you with these options. Your agent will also be able to give you a more refined quote to set realistic expectations.

There is no cost to apply for life insurance and no fee to walk away. And remember, if you do have a weight loss goal you can always reapply later on to see if you can lower your premiums.

If you have any questions about life insurance make sure to leave us a comment. Otherwise, tune in next week when we talk about paying life insurance premiums monthly versus annually. Bye!

» Calculate: Life insurance needs calculator

About the writer

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

Natasha Cornelius, CLU

Senior Editor and 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.