Applying For Term Life Insurance With Obesity

While obesity may stem from eating too much and not exercising enough, when you get past the basic root causes, it is a complex disorder that can have grave complications on your life.  Obesity affects one out of every three American adults and is ranked as the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

You can obtain life insurance when you’re obese, but what amount of coverage you get and what kind of premiums you pay care vary widely, depending on what other medical conditions you might have and how active you are in managing your weight issue.  Insurers pay close attention to obesity as a risk factor because it has such far reaching implications.

The Impacts of Obesity on Your Body

The first thing you should know about obesity is that in clinical terms, it is different than just being overweight.  Being overweight is just slightly above what would be considered normal for a person’s optimal healthy weight.  Being obese means that you have a much higher degree of body fat than what is acceptable.

Obesity is measured by a person’s body mass index, also known as BMI. Your BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703.  The number will tell you which weight status you fall into.

BMI Weight Status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5-24.9 Normal
25.0-29.9 Overweight
30.0-34.9 Obese (Class I)
35.0-39.9 Obese (Class II)
40.0 and higher Extreme obesity (Class III)


Obesity stems from several different causes, some preventable and curable, and others that are not.  This is why insurance companies will delve deeply into a person’s lifestyle and health records when looking at the possibility of providing life insurance to an obese individual.

It is usually not a single factor that contributes to a person being obese, but a combination of causes, some of which include:

Inactivity – When you sit around all day, you don’t burn calories.  It’s as simple as that.  When you don’t get up and move, it’s easy to ingest many more calories than you need to sustain yourself.

Poor diet – If the food you eat is high in calories, lacks fresh vegetables and fruits, and the portions are super-sized, then your body is not able to work optimally to burn fat cells, resulting in weight gain.

Age – Although obesity can occur at any age, as your body gets older, your hormones change, your metabolism slows down and a more sedentary lifestyle can result in weight gains. You also lose muscle mass as you get older, and when that happens, you do not burn as much fat to fuel your body as you did when you were younger.

Medical issues – Sometimes, a person will develop a medical problem that will restrict them from moving about, including conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, or other conditions that will cause them to gain weight, such as Cushing’s syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome or other similar medical issues.

Medications – Some medicines will cause a person to gain weight, including diabetes medicines, antidepressants, steroids, beta blockers and anti-seizure medications.

Pregnancy – Doctors set an ideal weight that a pregnant woman should achieve during her pregnancy, and sometimes they meet it, and sometimes they don’t.  After a baby is born, many women can find this weight difficult to lose.

Genetics – Some people are just more predisposed to store more fat in their bodies.  Others may also have more efficient ways how their body converts food to energy, allowing them to do a better job of burning off calories.

Lifestyle and socio-economic issues – If family members are obese, it may affect whether a person also becomes obese.  Also, people with less financial resources can’t always afford to buy the healthiest of foods, or have the means to prepare it in an optimally healthy way.

Sleep issues – When you don’t get the right amount of sleep, it causes changes in your hormones that increase your appetite.  This applies if you get too little sleep or too much sleep.  You develop cravings for foods that are high in carbohydrates and calories, setting the stage for you to pack the weight on.

These causes can lead to some serious health implications such as:

  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep apnea
  • High cholesterol
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Liver disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Cancer

Aside from these medical issues, you will also probably have quality of life issues as well. These issues include:

  • Depression
  • Social isolation and anxiety
  • Sexual problems
  • Lower work accomplishments
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Lower energy levels
  • Weight related discrimination

Fortunately, there are ways in which obesity can be treated for most people. Some of them can be achieved on your own, while others may require assistance from medical professionals.

How to treat obesity


Reducing calories and making smarter food choices is the foundational key to any weight loss program.

Exercise and activity

If you have some health issues that restrict your movement, then start small, maybe with just a 10 minute walk every day.  Take stairs instead of elevators. Park your car a little bit further out at the mall. And if you have the means, look into a gym membership or hiring a personal trainer who can not only motivate you, but also design a personal exercise program to help give you optimal results.

Behavior modification

Sometimes weight loss issues can be related to self-esteem issues.  Don’t rule out the benefits of psychological counseling or support groups as a means to help you break through any mental barriers that are holding you back.


Working with your doctor, you may be able to obtain prescription medications that will charge up your metabolism or reduce your hunger pangs to give you the boost you need to succeed in a weight loss program. Xenical, Contrave or Belviq are commonly prescribed.

Weight loss surgery

For extreme cases of weight loss, or in cases where obesity is a life threatening situation, gastric bypass surgery is an option that you might want to discuss with your doctor.

Getting Life Insurance

In almost every instance when a person is considered for a life insurance policy, an underwriter will look at height and weight ratios to see what category a person’s BMI is.  They will do this as a matter of course for all policies.  If you are red flagged for being obese, this may present a bit of a challenge, but you should still be able to obtain coverage in most cases.  Some life insurance companies will use slightly different height/weight ratios, meaning if you are considered obese by one company, you may not be considered obese by another.  Also, certain companies specialize in insuring clients who are obese, and may be more friendly towards offering you a policy than other companies.

As part of your medical exam, insurance companies will look at several factors in determining the suitability of insuring you or not.  If you are obese, they will want to know:

  • How long have you been obese?
  • Are there any dynamic factors that are currently contributing to your obesity, such as a medical condition or other change in your health?
  • What steps are you taking to fight your obesity, including current diet and exercise programs?
  • What health restrictions do you have that may impede any weight loss program you are on?
  • Are you currently taking medications to assist you with weight loss?
  • Are you considering surgery as a means to achieve your weight loss?
  • Do you have any secondary medical conditions caused by your obesity, including things such as diabetes, heart disease, liver disorders, or osteoarthritis?
  • What types of diagnostic tests have you have in the past 1 to 2 years?

As it is with all life insurance applications, the best thing you can do is be honest on your application to avoid having a policy cancelled at any point in the future.  And to get the best possible premiums going forward, begin a proactive program to reduce your weight and eliminate obesity in your life.