Life Insurance For Overweight Applicants: How BMI Affects Rates

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Understanding BMI and How it Affects Life Insurance Rates

BMI, or Body Mass Index, measures body fat based on weight and height. Insurance companies use BMI to assess your risk of developing health problems and to determine your life insurance premium. Generally, a higher BMI indicates a higher risk of health problems, resulting in a higher premium.

BMI Calculator for Life Insurance

BMI Calculator for Life Insurance

BMI Calculator for Life Insurance


Unit of measurement *



What is a Healthy BMI for Life Insurance?

A healthy BMI for life insurance is typically between 18.5 and 24.9. Most individuals consider this range a healthy weight associated with a lower risk of health problems. Insurance companies often use BMI to measure health risks, and individuals with a BMI outside of the healthy range may face higher premiums or be denied coverage altogether. 

Why is BMI Important for Life Insurance Companies?

BMI is essential for life insurance companies because it measures body fat associated with health risks. Insurance companies use BMI to assess an individual’s risk of developing health problems and to determine their life insurance premium. Individuals with a high BMI are viewed as higher risk and may be charged higher premiums or denied coverage altogether. BMI is a helpful tool for assessing overall health risk and helps insurance companies make more accurate predictions about an individual’s life expectancy.

Bmi For Life Insurance

How Weight Impacts Life Insurance Rates

Similar to a BMI calculation, a build chart determines your rating category and the rates you qualify for. The following are typical rating categories:

  • Preferred Plus: Applicants with no medical problems and excellent health. You’re unlikely to receive this grade if you’re more than a few pounds over the ideal weight for your height.
  • Preferred: You might qualify for a Preferred rating if you have had a little medical problem or have a family history of modest illnesses but are otherwise in excellent health. In addition, there’s often a Preferred category for smokers who would otherwise be eligible for the most significant rates because of their smoking habits.
  • Standard Plus: Exception rates for people in excellent health but with a poor family history or a single condition that prevents them from obtaining the Preferred level.
  • Standard: Applicants of average health with a few common but manageable problems, such as high cholesterol or blood pressure. There’s also a Standard rating for smokers. You’ll almost certainly get a Standard grade if you’re overweight and significantly obese.
  • Table Ratings: Extremely obese persons. You’ll unlikely be given a table rating for life insurance based on your weight if you have a normal or low BMI.

A life insurance company will have specific height minimum and maximum weight limitations for each rating category. Your age and gender may be factors as well. Some insurers, like Lincoln, Nationwide, and Prudential, utilize a unisex weight chart that is more favorable to women who are a few pounds overweight since the acceptable height-to-weight ratios are broader for males.

Insurers consider age, which benefits younger applicants who are overweight since the ideal weight range for a person of a certain height grows wider as they grow older.

To explain how life insurance firms evaluate your weight, consider the following examples of proper height and weight requirements for coverage. Even if you have an undesirable BMI, you may still be eligible for the highest rating category based on these samples.

Overweight applicants aren’t usually denied inexpensive life insurance because of their weight alone but owing to other elements linked to their build.

HeightGenderPreferred PlusPreferredStandard PlusStandard

How Does Obesity Affect Your Health?

Obesity increases the risk of health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, joint problems, certain cancers, and mental health issues.

How Does Obesity Affect Your Life Expectancy?

Obesity can reduce life expectancy by up to 12 years due to the increased risk of health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help improve life expectancy and reduce the risk of developing these health problems.

Life Insurance Options for Overweight and Obese Individuals

Every insurance company has specific criteria regarding height and weight when a person applies for life insurance. These criteria, known as build charts, can differ from one company to another. Some companies are more lenient with their build charts for individuals over the age of 60. For instance, a person who might receive a high rating due to their height and weight at one company could potentially get a much better rate at another company, particularly if they are older than 60. Some companies have build charts that are especially accommodating for people above 60, allowing individuals who might have been rated highly elsewhere to secure a standard rate instead. It is always recommended to shop around for the best rates.

What Types of Life Insurance Are Available for Overweight and Obese Individuals?

There are several types of life insurance policies available for overweight and obese individuals, including:

  • Term life insurance: This type of policy provides coverage for a specified period, such as 10 or 20 years, and typically has lower premiums than permanent life insurance.
  • Guaranteed issue life insurance: This policy is designed for individuals who may have difficulty obtaining coverage due to health issues. Guaranteed-issue policies do not require a medical exam but may have higher premiums and lower coverage amounts.
  • Modified or graded benefit life insurance: This policy provides coverage with a waiting period before the full death benefit is paid out. These policies may be a good option for individuals with pre-existing health conditions or a high BMI.
  • Permanent life insurance: This policy covers the insured’s lifetime and may have higher premiums than term life insurance. However, permanent life insurance policies also build cash value over time, which can be borrowed against or used to pay premiums.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Different Life Insurance Options?

Different life insurance options have their pros and cons. However, here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of each type of policy:

Term life insurance:

Guaranteed issue life insurance:

  • Pros: No medical exam is required, and coverage is available for individuals with health issues.
  • Cons: Higher premiums, lower coverage amounts, and the full death benefit waiting period.

Modified or graded benefit life insurance:

  • Pros: Coverage available for individuals with pre-existing health conditions or a high BMI.
  • Cons: Waiting period for the full death benefit, higher premiums.

Permanent life insurance:

  • Pros: Lifetime coverage, builds cash value, can be borrowed against or used to pay premiums.
  • Cons: Higher premiums than term life insurance, the cash value may not accumulate quickly, and may not be necessary for everyone.

Best Life Insurance Companies For Overweight Adults

Banner, Prudential, Pacific Life, and AIG are among the companies that offer life insurance policies for individuals with high BMI or obesity. It is crucial for individuals to research and compare policies from multiple insurance companies and work with an insurance professional to find the best coverage for their individual needs and circumstances.

Bmi For Insurance

Why do life insurance companies have BMI requirements?

The rates charged by life insurance companies are based on how risky an applicant is or how likely they believe you will pass away during the policy’s coverage period. Obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure might increase your mortality risk.

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep apnea
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Kidney disease

Even though you may not have any of these issues, if you fall outside their suggested weight limits, the insurer will not give you a Preferred rating since having a high BMI raises your risk of developing a medical condition later. A life insurance policy can be renewed for years or a lifetime, and the price cannot be changed, so the company assesses risk based on your current information.

  • What’s your current weight and height: Be up-front and honest in your description, but don’t forget to include all relevant information. For example, if you have a high BMI despite having a low body fat percentage, the insurance company may give you credits that will raise your rating.
  • Any weight changes in the past year: A crash diet is unlikely to boost your life insurance rating since you will only be given half of any recent weight reduction, and insurers are concerned about rapid weight changes. Make sure to disclose this information, even if the insurer doesn’t specifically ask for it if you’ve started an exercise or diet program resulting in weight loss.
  • Do you smoke or vape: Non-smokers are charged significantly higher life insurance premiums, especially if you’re overweight and don’t qualify for a Preferred Tobacco rating.
  • When was your last doctor’s appointment: If you’re not receiving regular health care from a doctor, your chances of obtaining excellent ratings will be affected. Obesity is linked to other diseases, so insurance companies want to ensure you’re regularly checked for problems.
  • Are you mobile: If you have mobility problems or medical difficulties associated with being overweight, you are unlikely to qualify for the best life insurance rates.

Preparing for the life insurance medical examination is a simple method to improve your health rating. We recommend conducting your exam first thing in the morning while fasting to receive the highest possible assessment. Your weight may fluctuate several pounds as you eat and drink throughout the day, so performing the test early eliminates some of that uncertainty.

Finally, ask your insurer if you can take a new medical examination after a few years. If you’ve started a weight-loss plan, you may be able to get a higher rating and lower premiums by being reassessed and showing that you’re keeping the pounds off. Alternatively, you could compare rates from different life insurance companies to see whether another company’s policy would meet your needs at a cheaper price.

What if you’re turned down for life insurance because of your weight?

In most situations, a high BMI will not prevent you from obtaining life insurance. Even if one company refuses to cover you, another likely would. To be denied life insurance by several companies because of your weight, you must be morbidly obese. The reason you wouldn’t be offered coverage in this scenario is most likely due to both body weight and other health issues.

If you can’t obtain a typical term or permanent life insurance policy because of your weight, or if this is coupled with other reasons, we would first advise you to reduce your weight before reapplying. Although life insurance firms will only recognize a modest amount of weight loss in the previous year, you’ll be more likely to qualify for the policy of your choice.

On the other hand, guaranteed acceptance life insurance is a good option if you need coverage right now but don’t meet the requirements of another policy. However, these policies do come with certain drawbacks:

  • Limited coverage (Up to $25,000)
  • Guaranteed acceptance policies are more expensive than regular life insurance policies.
  • If you die during the first two to three years of the policy’s term, your beneficiaries will only receive a partial payout unless the death was unintentional.

Next Steps

In conclusion, BMI can significantly impact your ability to obtain life insurance coverage. However, being overweight or obese does not necessarily mean you cannot obtain coverage. By understanding how weight affects your life insurance rates and exploring your options, you can find a policy that provides the coverage you need at a price you can afford. Remember to consult an insurance professional to help you select the right policy.

Need Help Getting Life Insurance Coverage?

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get life insurance if I am overweight?

Yes, it is possible to get life insurance if you are overweight. However, you may face higher premiums or be denied coverage altogether, depending on the severity of your weight condition and other health factors. Insurance companies use BMI to measure health risks and consider other factors such as age, gender, and health history when determining premiums. If you are overweight, shopping around and working with an insurance professional to find the right policy for your needs and budget is essential.

What BMI is too high for life insurance?

Usually, insurance companies prefer if your Body Mass Index (BMI) is not above 46. However, some companies are more flexible, especially for people older than 60.

Can life insurance be denied for weight?

Yes, sometimes people can be denied life insurance if they weigh too much.

What BMI is considered normal?

A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is seen as normal.

Can having weight loss surgery stop you from getting life insurance?

No, having weight loss surgery doesn’t stop you from getting life insurance. But if there are problems after the surgery, like infections, those could be considered.

Do all life insurance companies ask for BMI?

Most companies do ask for your BMI, but some don’t.

Does body frame affect BMI?

Yes, BMI is a measure that compares your height and weight. It doesn’t consider if you’re very muscular or not, so different body types can have the same BMI.

How does weight affect life insurance rates?

Usually, if your BMI is higher, you might have to pay more for life insurance. But some companies don’t ask about your weight, and some are more flexible for older people.

Can you be denied coverage for high cholesterol?

Yes, you can be denied life insurance if your cholesterol is too high.

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Shawn Plummer is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, insurance agent, and annuity broker with over 14 years of first-hand experience with annuities and insurance. Since beginning his journey in 2009, he has been pivotal in selling and educating about annuities and insurance products. Still, he has also played an instrumental role in training financial advisors for a prestigious Fortune Global 500 insurance company, Allianz. His insights and expertise have made him a sought-after voice in the industry, leading to features in renowned publications such as Time Magazine, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, Women’s Health Magazine, and many more. Shawn’s driving ambition? To simplify retirement planning, he ensures his clients understand their choices and secure the best insurance coverage at unbeatable rates.

The Annuity Expert is an independent online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. The goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning and find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates

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