Rugby World Cup - Life Insurance & BMI
11 Oct 2019
We'll get to rugby in a moment but first, picture Dwayne “The Rock'' Johnson. He's a man with a very specific type of physique: he's utterly huge and fit as a fiddle; he boasts a low body fat percentage and muscles the size of a child's head.
Surely he's the kind of clean-living, fitness fanatic that life insurers love, right?
Not exactly. It may come as a shock, but Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is obese. Going by the BMI guidelines, anyway. He's a bemuscled man-mountain, but he's so overweight that many UK life insurers would raise a corporate eyebrow (that's a wrestling reference, now).
The same dynamics play for rugby pros. A bigger Body Mass Index (BMI) might make you harder to knock down, but it’ll likely knock up your life insurance premiums.
What is BMI?
By now you probably know this, but BMI is a simple calculation that uses a person’s weight and height to categorise them as underweight, healthy, overweight or obese. It’s widely agreed that a healthy BMI lies between 18.5 and 24.9. Anything between 25-30 is deemed overweight.
The Rock has a reported BMI of 30.7 - he's technically in the obese category. And many burley rugby players, especially the big lads at the back, are in a similar spot.
It might sound unfair but there's method to it. Years ago, UK life insurers were pretty forgiving on the old BMI. A person could get decent insurance even up to the morbidly obese range of 38. But around a decade ago, BMI was very much en-vogue and insurers started paying closer attention to it as a major determining factor in health.
Post-BMI, insurers started tightening up. An emphasis on BMI meant premiums were likely to rise when they reached the overweight and obese categories.
Bit harsh, no?
Rugby pros, weight lifters, Dwayne Johnson - they might sound like they belong in a special category of their own. On the BMI chart they may be overweight or even obese but they're more muscle than fat and super, super fit. Turns out that’s not the case.
“You might take a life insurance policy out over 30 years,” says Marie Bedding, a 15-year LifeSearcher, “but an insurer will see it as you’re young fit and healthy now, but in 10 years time, are you still going to be?
“Will you still be training, competing and doing the same stuff in the gym? Or is that muscle going to be replaced with podge?”
Waist size, halfs and wingers
Harsh and black and white as it all sounds, some insurers do make allowances. One, for example, asks for a person's waist size to reconcile a BMI anomaly. With a whopping BMI and a normal waist, it's easy to determine that your mass is muscle and not fat. With that, premiums may come down.
But the logic still holds. Will all that muscle still be there in 10 years, before your policy's even half way in? Most insurers still take this view.
“No one's saying that being a rugby player will definitely cost you,” says Marie, “but the more muscular you are, the harder it’ll be to maintain that tip-top physique for the next 30 years.
“The middle-aged spread can hit like a ton of bricks, especially when your playing days are behind you, so we have to think ahead.
“Scrum Halfs, Fly Halfs and Wingers tend to be leaner, so have a BMI in the healthy zone. For those players, premiums maybe won't be affected. But your props and hookers are likely to be larger, pushing BMI to a range where premiums typically go up.”
The final whistle
Like anyone else, life insurers can’t see into the future either. We can only guess what The Rock will look like in 20 years. But with an A-lister acting career, a team of trainers and enough money to fill a wrestling ring, you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll still look tip-top.
For the rugby players out there who intend to grow old gracefully and enjoy a more normal journey into their middle ages, the pricier premiums might begin to make sense.