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What is BMI and why is it important?

LifeSearch author Zuky Edgar
5 min read

by Zuky Edgar, Marketing Executive

See author bio

Zuky brings her passion for writing and storytelling to helping customers get all of the information they need to Protect themselves and their loved ones.See author bio

Published 26 Aug 2021

Body weight is one of those things that many of us don’t like speaking about. What we see in the media today and in our social feeds - this perception of what the ‘perfect body’ is - can have a huge impact on our body image and the way we feel about our weight. 

We think it’s important to talk about weight in a way that focuses on health, rather than aesthetics. We all know that being overweight carries a number of health risks, which are important to be aware of, but what you may not know is that body weight can actually have a big impact on your life insurance premiums too! 

In this guide we explain what BMI is and why it pays to maintain a healthy weight. But don’t worry, you’ll find no talk of cutting out the fish and chips or the cakes here, just the facts!

What is BMI?

You’ve probably heard of BMI before, but what exactly is it? Well it stands for body mass index and it’s used to check whether you’re a healthy weight. Okay, so how is it calculated? Well you take your weight in kilograms (kg) and divide it by your height in meters, squared (m2). So, for example, if you weigh 70kg and are 1.7m in height, your BMI is 70/(1.72) = 24.2kg/m2

NHS guidelines say that a healthy BMI for adults is between 18.5 and 24.9, so this is where you ideally want your BMI to be. If your BMI is less than 18.5 you’re considered to be underweight, if it’s between 25 and 29.9, you’re considered to be overweight and if your BMI is above 30 you’re classified as obese.

BMI is a simple measure of whether you’re a healthy weight, but with simplicity comes limitations. For example, if you’re an athlete and are particularly muscley you may have a high BMI, but not necessarily be in poor health. Also, BMI doesn’t take into account the location of fat, which is important information because fat stored around your stomach, which may be visceral fat sitting around organs, is likely to have a greater impact on your health than fat in other areas of the body. It’s for this reason that another useful measure, which is often used alongside BMI, is waist size, which indicates how much fat is being stored around your stomach in particular.

How does BMI affect life insurance?

Your BMI can have a huge impact on your health. For example, if you fall into the obese range, you’re at higher risk of developing some pretty serious illnesses like type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. In fact, for every 10 years that someone spends being obese, their risk of heart damage increases 1.25 times. Now that might not seem like a huge number, but just think, if you spend 50 years overweight, your risk could be three times higher *! Did you also know that one in 20 cancers are caused by excess weight and obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK **?

Now we don’t like to focus too much on these horrible statistics, but we also think that it’s important to highlight some of the health risks. It’s these risks that explain why life insurers will want to know your BMI if you apply for a policy, because they want to better understand your health, your risk of any serious illnesses and therefore your likelihood of needing to claim on your policy. Based on this they’ll calculate your life insurance premiums or may decide that they can’t cover you if your BMI is too high. And it’s a very similar situation for both critical illness insurance and income protection insurance too, which are policies that protect you against ill health.

Body weight can sometimes be a bit of a sensitive subject, and you may feel a little uncomfortable disclosing this information. This is completely natural, but rest assured that your personal information will be kept completely confidential and won’t go anywhere beyond your protection insurance adviser and the insurer.

I am overweight, how much will life insurance cost?

You can actually be a little overweight and still be charged exactly the same premiums as someone with a BMI in the healthy adult range, it’s only when BMI exceeds 30 that insurers usually decide to increase premiums. Some insurers may also ask for your waist size to better understand where body fat is located. Lots of other factors will feed into the final price that you’re charged - including your age, the type of insurance you go for and any existing medical conditions.

Life insurers will tend to increase the price they charge the heavier you are, simply because of the increased health risks. But don’t let this put you off, there are lots of different insurers out there and they often take different approaches when it comes to life insurance and BMI, so it’s definitely worth speaking to one of our friendly advisers who will be able to talk you through your best insurance options. Why not request a callback for a time that’s convenient for you?

How can I reduce my life insurance premiums?

It’s true that reducing your BMI could save you some money on your life insurance, but if you’re already in the healthy BMI range, reducing it further won’t really make a difference. Living with a healthy BMI is, of course, not only a good thing for your pocket, but your body too! Other things you can do to reduce your life insurance premiums include stopping smoking and making sure that other health metrics like your blood pressure and cholesterol are in a good place. 

If you’re generally on the muscly side and are worried about your BMI being a bit high, make sure that you mention this when answering your life insurance health questions, or speak to one of our expert protection advisers on 0800 316 7253 who will work to find you the most affordable life insurance.

Already got a protection policy in place and recently lost weight? You may be due a premium reduction. We’re very happy to help you here, so give us a call! It’s also worth knowing that some insurers even support you in losing weight and getting healthy - offering rewards and discounts for doing so! Get a callback from one of our trained advisers to find out more.

How do I find the best life insurance?

At LifeSearch we work with the UK’s top life insurers and regularly speak to people who have a high BMI and are looking to find the best cover at the most affordable price. Our extensive knowledge of the life insurance market means that we know how different insurers treat BMI, so if you’re looking for a new protection policy and want to better understand your options, give us a call today.

Also, if you’ve ever applied for life insurance and have been declined cover because of your weight, get in touch, because we may be able to help you!

I want to know more…

We’re here to help you protect the life you love! Call us on 0800 316 7253 or request a callback from one of our expert advisers who will happily answer any questions you have. We look forward to chatting with you soon.



LifeSearch author Zuky Edgar
Zuky Edgar Marketing Executive
A ‘Searcher since 2020, Zuky is a self-confessed ‘book bum’ and has big following for her book blogs and social media accounts. She brings her passion for writing and storytelling to helping customers get all of the information they need to Protect themselves and their loved ones
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