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Life Insurance and Alcohol

Life Insurance and Alcohol

8 Jul 2020

We’re a nation that loves a drink. We celebrate with a drink, we commiserate with a drink, and we relax with a drink. That being said, there has certainly been a social shift away from booze (dry January, anyone?) and similarly cigarettes, and perhaps this is down to younger people’s high levels of anxiety around their health and mortality. 

We do seem to be spending less on booze - £2.20 per head less to be exact, putting the average spend per person per month at £19.30. But that’s not to say that binge drinking and alcoholism isn’t an issue for many people - it is. Figures show that in the UK, one in 10 people in a hospital bed are alcohol-dependent and one in five are doing themselves harm by their drinking. 



 

So, where does this leave people when trying to take out life insurance? Although there are no hard and fast rules, heavy alcohol habits can have a knock-on effect on health that can be a worry for insurers. It can definitely complicate the application process, which is why many people may feel the need to keep their drinking habits quiet when taking out life insurance. 



 

30% of people admit to having lied to someone about their drinking; be that their GP, their partner or their employer. One in 12 people (8%) said that they have specifically lied to an insurer or financial institution about their lifestyle habits to secure better cover. A further 4% abstained from answering the question.  
 
Is it really that difficult to get accepted for life insurance when you admit to alcohol abuse issues? 

Life insurance and alcohol abuse 

As previously mentioned, it’s fair to say that the health implications that come with heavy drinking are usually the thing that makes insurers think twice before approving a straightforward, affordable policy. Whether you drink heavily or are alcohol dependent, eventually your body will feel the adverse effects of drinking. Steadily drinking for long periods of your life can eventually lead to liver damage, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat patterns or increased difficulty for your heart to pump blood around your body which can eventually result in heart failure.  
 
It can also cause the death of grey and white matter in the brain. Grey matter is the parts of the brain that are involved in muscle control, sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, self-control and decision making. White matter is deeper brain tissue and this contains and protects nerve fibres. It’s a big part of sending and receiving messages from the rest of the body.  
 
If you’re a heavy and regular drinker and particularly if you’ve been told by your doctor that you need to stop, you might be facing somewhat of a battle with taking out life insurance - although it’s by no means impossible.  

Does binge drinking affect life insurance premiums? 

Binge drinking is often associated with what many of us might get up to on a Friday or Saturday night in bars, clubs and at parties. Harmless, right? Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that leads to a blood alcohol level of 0.08 grams per decilitre. For adult women, this is typically around four drinks within a couple of hours and for men, it’s five.  
 
A lot of people enjoy a night out every now and then, and the good news is that insurers understand this, and they get that the average night out means exceeding those government recommended limits by quite a bit. They’re usually a little more relaxed and realistic about the amount that people drink. 
 
If you could be considered a binge drinker, whether or not this will affect your life insurance premiums will depend on your insurer and you as an individual. Alcohol tolerances vary from person to person but the fact stands that binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning - and alcohol poisoning is nasty on the body. We’re talking confusion, nausea and vomiting, irregular breathing, low body temperatures that can sometimes result in hypothermia, unconsciousness and sometimes even seizures. So again, it’s the possible health implications that come with binge drinking that actually affects your life insurance premiums, 
 
At the end of the day, binge drinking is a high-risk activity due to the associated health risks but there are no official guidelines when it comes to getting life insurance and alcohol issues, and everyone is assessed on a case-by-case basis. The most important thing is to be honest with your provider about your alcohol intake. Providing that your medical check is clear, many insurers would still provide affordable premiums for those drinking up to 35 units per week.  

 

 

Life insurance for alcoholics 

Not everyone that drinks heavily is an alcoholic. Alcoholism is characterised by drinking excessively and having a reliance on and an addiction to alcohol. It’s a disease that affects people both mentally and physically. Your body can become chemically addicted to alcohol, and your mind can become reliant on alcohol to function and cope with everyday life. In either instance, alcoholism can have detrimental effects on a person’s health, finances, work, family and other relationships. 
 
Life insurance definitely becomes more difficult when it comes to alcoholism, as it’s classed as a disease rather than a high-risk activity or lifestyle. As an alcoholic, your risk is higher and therefore your premiums are likely to increase, just as they would if you had a health condition such as cancer or diabetes.  
 
Term life insurance tends to be the easiest type of cover to get for alcoholics, as opposed to products such as income protection and critical illness cover. Term life insurance is cover at a fixed rate for a limited period of time that you decide on when you’re taking out your policy, for instance until your children are old enough to be financially independent or until your mortgage is paid off. After the term ends, so does the cover. The likelihood of passing away during this term is less than the likelihood of getting sick or injured, and that’s why it can be a little more accessible to high-risk applicants.  
 
Although not impossible, life insurance as an alcoholic can be expensive. If you’re finding that premiums are high and you can’t afford them, it might be worth giving it a bit of time and postponing your application for life insurance until you are alcohol-free and subsequently, a lower risk applicant.  

Can recovered alcoholics get life insurance? 

Let’s start first with the term ‘recovered alcoholic’. In order to be a recovered alcoholic, you must have received a diagnosis and treatment for alcoholism. This can only begin once a person accepts that they have a problem with alcohol and decides to stop drinking. Unless they’re underage, it’s not something that can be forced - aside from in the event of a court mandate. 
 
Treatment for alcoholism comes in three parts; detox, rehabilitation and self-sufficient sobriety. Self-sufficient sobriety is the most important step and also the most difficult. Life insurance providers are usually willing to cover those with a history of alcoholism and alcohol abuse, but will want to see that applicants have received full treatment, have stopped drinking (or at least cut down to below the recommended maximum levels) and have completed regular follow up visits with a counsellor and health checks from a doctor.  



 

You know what they say; time is a healer. And if you’ve been recovered for ten years or more, are completely teetotal and can complete a clear medical check-up, you shouldn’t have any more issues taking out life insurance than someone who has never touched a drop. 
 
If you are a recovered alcoholic, you’ll want to be prepared when making your application. This will speed things along and improve your chances, so make sure you’ve got all your medical records to hand including details of medications and dosages, and your doctor’s name, phone number and address. Most importantly, don’t miss those regular check-ups.  

Does life insurance cover alcohol related death? 

If you or someone you know is suffering from alcohol related issues, death isn’t something that you particularly want to consider. However, long-term heavy alcohol consumption can really take its toll on a person’s body.  



 

We’re talking a whole host of liver problems such as liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis and liver cancer to name a few, plus stomach ulcers, nutrient deficiencies and thiamine deficiency - which can lead to serious neurological issues - and cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure, blood clots, strokes and heart attacks. In 2016, alcohol related cardiovascular diseases caused an estimated 593,000 deaths globally.  
 
That’s just a snapshot of the number of health issues that can occur as a result of heavy alcohol consumption. Most of these conditions would usually be covered as normal on a life insurance policy, however having a history of alcoholism or an on-going issue with alcohol could render all or most of these as ‘alcohol-related’ illnesses and deaths. 

That’s just a snapshot of the number of health issues that can occur as a result of heavy alcohol consumption. Most of these conditions would usually be covered as normal on a life insurance policy, however having a history of alcoholism or an on-going issue with alcohol could render all or most of these as ‘alcohol-related’ illnesses and deaths.

If you’re a recovered alcoholic (and you were when you bought your policy), then your insurance would probably pay out for most of the aforementioned issues and any others that might apply, despite them being alcohol related. Again, you must have a history of regular check ups with your doctor. 

If you bought your policy when you were an alcoholic and then you recovered during the term of your policy, but still passed away as a result of an alcoholic-induced condition, it is possible that your loved ones would still receive the payout. 

Can I get income protection or critical illness cover as an alcoholic? 

Life insurance is not the only product out there and many people with alcohol issues, or a history of alcohol issues, may be interested in taking out income protection or critical illness cover. 
 
Income protection is certainly the more difficult of the two to get - even if you’re fit and healthy - as it has the highest rate of pay outs. If you have a history of alcoholism, getting either an affordable income protection policy with terms that suit you, or the same for critical illness cover can be very tricky, but that’s not to say that it’s impossible. Don’t forget, there are experienced brokers out there whose job it is to find you the right cover. 

How brokers like LifeSearch can help 

At LifeSearch, we’re looking out for your best interests. We want you to be able to protect the life you love, no matter what that life looks like - or used to look like. We’ve built our business around doing right by you. 
 
If you are a heavy drinker, have alcohol abuse issues, are an alcoholic or a recovered alcoholic, we will try our best to get you the policy you want. Once you pick up the phone to us, we’ll start an in-depth ‘fact find’ about you. It’s not as daunting as it sounds - we essentially just want to find out your reasons for seeking cover and conduct a health questionnaire. This helps us to know where to place you and helps us to manage your expectations for the kind of cover you’ll reasonably have on offer to you. One thing that we pride ourselves on is the ability to place a customer with the right insurance company or underwriter to get them the best cover and price possible for their situation. 
 
So, if you are worried about being accepted for an affordable life insurance policy, let LifeSearch help. Kimberley Kavanagh, a Senior Advisor at LifeSearch since 2002 says:

 
“On the whole, drinking doesn’t cause many problems for your life cover unless it’s really heavy drinking or if you’ve been told by your doctor that you need to stop. That might be a time when drinking could affect your policy. 
 
I get that people might be tempted to lie to us about their drinking, just like they do when the doctor asks the same question, so I’m sure a few fibs slip the net. But because of the way our process works, I’d say that people are mostly honest.  
 
We have to ensure that everything is accurately recorded, so when we get to the health questionnaire stage 
we remind applicants that ‘failure to disclose will invalidate your policy’. In other words, there are possible consequences of not telling the whole truth on your application.” 

 

 
It’s important to remember that everyone is assessed on a case-by-case basis. And if you’re having trouble finding the right policy now and you’ve had issues with alcohol in the past, give it a little time and then try again in the future. Underwriting stances change with time, often becoming more lenient for things like alcohol and addiction issues, mental health problems and lifestyle choices. 
 
For more than 20 years, we’ve been providing small graces in hard times, and today we’re still at it. We only choose the best policies from the best insurers, which means you get the best cover.  
We're always here to answer questions, give free advice and walk alongside you if you need to make a claim. We don't want you feeling like it's on you to disentangle or interpret the complexities of your situation versus your policy (doesn’t sound like fun, does it?), so give us a shout and we can do that together.  

Give us a call on 0800 316 7253 and let us help you out. 

 

References:

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/04/staggering-cost-nhs-alcohol-abuse-report

[2] https://www.alcohol.org/effects/
 

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