Posted 8 Sep 2020

High BMI and Overweight life insurance during COVID-19

One of the most commonly linked health problems with higher risks of serious illness from COVID-19 is high BMI and Obesity. There have been several major studies that have shown that people with a BMI of over 35 are at 40% higher risk of death due to COVID.

There are currently some issues with life insurance underwriting in the UK and globally due to the current pandemic. Most insurance providers in the UK have restricted their limits so are currently only offering cover up to certain levels.

At iam|INSURED, we’re experts in helping people with medical conditions and health issues to get life insurance at a fair price. Our team of expert advisers speaks to literally thousands of people every month to help them to protect their families.

COVID-19 has caused insurance providers to impose extra underwriting restrictions which includes BMI levels. We are constantly reviewing the situation and working with our partners which includes some UK’s top insurance brands.

High BMI (body mass index) and Obesity statistics in the UK

Obesity and high BMI are some of the most common health risks in the UK which is also the most common health disclosures in life insurance.

Facts and figures:

  • 62% of the UK population is overweight
  • 58% of women and 68% of men are overweight
  • Almost a quarter (25%) of UK adults are classed as obese
  • The UK has the highest obesity rates in Europe
  • Around 30,000 deaths in the UK are weight-related

What is classed as overweight or obese in the UK?

Weight classification in the UK is linked to Body Mass Index (BMI). Although this is not the most reliable method of calculating a person’s health, it does provide a good indication.

Example: A bodybuilder or rugby player can be healthy and athletic but have a high BMI due to their muscle mass

BMI calculator:

Current BMI categorisation in the UK according to the NHS are:

  • Underweight: Below 18.5
  • Healthy weight: 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight: 25 to 29.9
  • Obese: 30 to 39.9

How has COVID-19 affected Obesity and High BMI life insurance?

There have been a number of studies that clearly link high BMI and obesity with a serious illness or even death from COVID-19.

Previously, in life insurance in the UK, it has been possible to get cover with a BMI of over 50 from a select group of insurers.

BMI limits for life insurance before COVID-19:

  • Standard life cover: 50
  • Specialist life cover: 55

Current BMI limits for life insurance in the UK:

  • Standard life cover: 40
  • Specialist life cover: 44

What are the health risks for people who are overweight during COVID?

According to recent studies, obesity can increase the risk of death due to COVID-19 by 48%. The study which was carried out by the University of California (UNC) and the Saudi Health Council and World Bank, found that people who were obese were nearly 50% higher risk, which was “scary” a researcher said.

Another study found that people with a BMI of between 35 and 40, were at 40% higher risk of death, and those with BMI’s of over 40 were 90% higher risk. This is compared to those who did not have a high BMI.

Other data sources found that 7.9% of critically ill patients with COVID-19 had a BMI over 40, which was compared to 2.9% of the rest of the population.

Medical conditions linked to High BMI and Obesity:

What’s going to happen to life insurance rates for people who are overweight?

The current situation with the pandemic is constantly being reviewed by insurers and by medical experts. We are also speaking to our insurance partners on a weekly basis to find out whether anything is going to change.

The current underwriting guidance is not likely to change for the foreseeable future until the situation with COVID changes. Some insurers are suggesting that they may relax their rules after a 2nd wave or after a vaccine has been released.

What else can I do if I can’t get life insurance currently because of my weight?

There are certain insurance products that are available through iam|INSURED to help protect your family through this period. It’s our aim to provide some life cover to our customers where possible, regardless of their health.

Some of the other options include:

  • Over 50’s life cover (if applicable)
  • Guaranteed acceptance life insurance
  • Personal accident (with accidental death)

It’s important to make sure that you’ve got some cover rather than nothing and a lot of these products are cheaper than standard life insurance.

If you’re confused about getting life insurance and don’t know what to do then you can contact one of our experts free on 0800 009 6559

Daniel Sharpe-Szunko