Can You Get Life Insurance if You’re Overweight? [2022]

Verified by Laura McKay, Licensed Life Insurance Advisor, COO & Co-Founder at PolicyMe

You can likely still get life insurance in Canada if you're overweight. When determining your life insurance rates, insurance companies consider your Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a combination of your height and weight. Insurers see higher BMI as potential for increased risk of medical conditions.

If you’re wondering how much your BMI or weight will affect your life insurance rates, including if your application might get denied, and what the maximum BMI is for life insurance, we’re here to help.

Can you get life insurance if you're overweight?

Life insurance for overweight individuals can be more complex. It’s possible that insurance companies may decline to offer you a life insurance policy. But, they usually only do this in extreme cases. 

So if you don’t currently have any health conditions related to being overweight, you have a good shot at getting life insurance. 

If you’re overweight, the best life insurance company will consider your weight, BMI, and overall health fairly. You should also compare quotes from various insurers to see where you can get the best rates.

Can you be denied life insurance due to weight?

You won’t be denied life insurance solely due to your weight in most cases. It is possible to be denied life insurance for having a high BMI or a high BMI in combination with other health risks (e.g., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, diabetes, heart disease).

For example, if you are mildly overweight but do not have other risk factors, your life insurance application will likely be accepted.

What happens if you’re denied life insurance?

If you’re denied a life insurance policy for having a high BMI, you still have coverage options!

Canada Protection Plan is the leading provider of simplified and no medical life insurance policies in Canada. It offers many options for people who haven’t been able to get insurance in the past. Generally, we recommend applying for a "no medical" policy as a Plan B. Try to apply for a standard life insurance policy first.

You can also see if you can get a group life insurance policy through your employer. In group plans, there are little-to-no hurdles to be approved for coverage, which will work in your favour. Who knew that your employer could end up saving the day? But use caution here; because your policy will end if you leave your employer. We tend to recommend this option if you know you will keep your job until retirement.

Underwriting process for people with a high BMI

For overweight applicants or applicants with a high BMI, the underwriting process usually takes a bit longer. It's fairly common for a life insurance application to be flagged for BMI. If your application does get flagged, it can take 4–6 weeks to get approved.

Your insurer will likely order a blood and urine test to better understand your current health status. And your insurance company may ask for a report from your doctor.

Do life insurance companies use BMI?

Life insurance companies use BMI to assess your risk level because they see it as an important measure of your health. If you have a higher chance of passing away young, that’ll increase your risk level in the eyes of your insurance company. This is because they are more likely to have to pay out your death benefit.

To assess your current BMI, they’ll look at your weight and height. To get life insurance, the BMI requirements are that your BMI is within a “healthy range.” This tells your insurer that there are no additional risks.

Recommended reading: high risk life insurance guide

Is BMI an accurate way to measure a person’s health?

Although insurers rely on BMI to assess risk, BMI isn’t an accurate way to measure a person’s overall health. For example, Dr. Kelvas notes in this article how BMI doesn’t account for other factors like gender, age, ethnicity, and muscle mass. So, someone with more muscle mass can have a higher BMI that classifies them as overweight when they’re actually healthy.

Dr. Kelvas also cites a 2016 study by Tomiyama et al. which found that BMI doesn’t correctly reflect a person’s cardiometabolic health. 45% of participants who were considered overweight or obese based on their BMI were cardiometabolically healthy. Meanwhile, 30% who were considered normal weight by BMI were cardiometabolically unhealthy.

Do height and weight affect life insurance rates?

Yes, height and weight do affect life insurance rates because they impact your BMI. The healthier your BMI, the lower your life insurance rates will be.

In Canada, there are four categories of BMI ranges:

  • Underweight (BMI less than 18.5)
  • Normal weight (BMIs 18.5 to 24.9)
  • Overweight (BMIs 25 to 29.9)
  • Obese (BMI 30 and over)

So if you’re overweight by BMI standards, you can expect one of these scenarios:

  • You’ll be offered a higher life insurance rate than if you had a lower BMI 
  • Your rating will be postponed 6–12 months with the condition that you lose a certain amount of weight and maintain that new weight
  • If you lost weight recently, you may need to maintain it for a certain period before you’re rated

Each insurance company uses its own BMI table to determine how your rate may increase if you have a higher BMI. We’ve included a sample build table as an example below:

Sample Life Insurance Build Table:

Build 150% increase 200% increase 250% increase 300% increase 350% increase
5’0" 128 lbs 194 lbs 218 lbs 236 lbs 247 lbs 256 lbs
5’2" 138 lbs 206 lbs 230 lbs 248 lbs 261 lbs 272 lbs
5’4" 147 lbs 218 lbs 243 lbs 262 lbs 276 lbs 288 lbs
5’6" 156 lbs 229 lbs 257 lbs 276 lbs 292 lbs 304 lbs
5’8" 165 lbs 242 lbs 271 lbs 292 lbs 308 lbs 320 lbs
5’10" 174 lbs 255 lbs 286 lbs 308 lbs 324 lbs 336 lbs
6’0" 184 lbs 267 lbs 302 lbs 324 lbs 340 lbs 352 lbs
6’2" 194 lbs 282 lbs 318 lbs 340 lbs 357 lbs 368 lbs
6’4" 204 lbs 299 lbs 334 lbs 356 lbs 373 lbs 383 lbs
6’6" 215 lbs 314 lbs 350 lbs 372 lbs 388 lbs 399 lbs

Can your life insurance rates be lowered if you lose weight?

If you lose weight, it may lower your cost of life insurance. Along with improving your health and boosting your confidence. Even if your premiums are high now because of your BMI, they aren’t set in stone for life. This process is called “reconsideration.”

Insurers will want to see that you’ve kept the weight off for 12 months before re-evaluating your case. They’ll probably also ask you to take another medical exam to verify that you don’t have any other medical issues. After all, insurers have to protect themselves too!

Now, we know what you’re thinking: “Is there a risk that they could raise my premiums if they discover a new risk during this process?”

Nope! Your premiums are locked in, even if they find out something else about you. So there’s little risk of asking them to reconsider your policy rate if you lose weight.

What are the weight limits for life insurance?

The weight limits for life insurance depend on the insurance company and premiums can range from standard pricing to a maximum rateable weight of 350%. 

Usually, you can exceed the standard weight (as defined by the insurer) for your height and still receive insurance. But your premiums will be higher depending on your exact weight class.

Can you get life insurance if you’re obese?

Yes, you can get life insurance if you’re considered obese by BMI standards, but you will likely pay higher premiums. 

In Canada, obese classification is split into three categories:

  • Obese class I: 30.0 - 34.9 BMI
  • Obese class II: 35.0 - 39.9 BMI
  • Obese class III: >= 40.0 BMI

If you’re looking for life insurance and your BMI is over 40, you can still see if qualify for life insurance through traditional means. If you don’t, you may want to consider no medical life insurance.

What BMI is too high for life insurance? 

If your BMI is 30 or higher, you can still get insurance but will likely pay higher premiums. This is because Canada’s weight classification system considers a person with a BMI of 30+ to be obese and thus at a higher risk of developing health problems. 

To know the maximum BMI for life insurance and weight cutoffs, look out for build tables or height and weight charts from insurance companies.

In summary: you can likely still get coverage if you are overweight

Don’t get discouraged if you’re overweight and looking for life insurance. You don’t have to let concerns about your weight hold you back from getting the coverage your family needs.

  • Life insurers use the BMI scale to determine someone’s risk factor.
  • You can likely still qualify for life insurance coverage despite your weight.
  • If you are denied a life insurance policy, there are alternatives you can get for coverage.

FAQs: Can you get life insurance if you are overweight?

How do you calculate your BMI?

To calculate BMI, you need a person’s height and weight. The formula is BMI = kg/m^2 where “kg” is a person’s weight in kilograms and “m^2” is their height in metres squared.

Is it better to lose weight before getting life insurance?

Waiting until you lose weight to get life insurance isn’t better if you want to protect your loved ones as soon as possible. A good alternative is to apply for life insurance now. And if you lose weight later, you can apply for reconsideration and get your rates lowered.

Why do life insurance companies ask about weight loss?

Life insurance companies ask about weight loss because they want to know if you recently lost weight and whether that weight loss is sustainable. If you did lose weight recently, they may offer you premiums that fall somewhere between your new and old weight.

Helene Fleischer

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