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Obesity and Life Insurance Rates: Extra Pounds Could be Costing You Double

Aug. 3, 2015
Insurance, Life Insurance
Obesity and Life Insurance Rates
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Obesity affects over a third of Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It hampers quality of life while increasing your chances of having a stroke and developing coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers and other conditions that can lead to an early death. And obesity might be costing you much more than your health. Those pounds could also mean higher life insurance rates.

NerdWallet crunched the numbers and found that extra inches on your waistline could double your life insurance quotes if you’re shopping for a policy. Losing weight is a smart decision for your health and finances.

Key takeaways

Being excessively heavy can cost you. On average, obese men and women pay about twice as much for life insurance than those who are at a healthy weight, as defined by the CDC.

Overweight applicants pay more, but less than obese applicants. Life insurance companies draw a distinction between those who are obese and those who are carrying around a few extra pounds. Overweight men pay about $11 more a year than men at a healthy weight for a 20-year $500,000 term life insurance policy. Overweight women pay about $21 more on annual premiums than women at a healthy weight for the same policy.

Yes, you can be too skinny. Weighing in at an extreme on either end of the spectrum will cost you. In most states, underweight men pay nearly $100 more a year than men at a healthy weight for a 20-year $500,000 term life insurance policy. Underweight women pay about $40 more each year than women at a healthy weight for the same coverage.

Life insurance rates

Life insurance companies base your rate on your life expectancy. That’s why obese men and women tend to pay higher premiums.

In general, rates don’t vary depending on where you live, with the exception of New York and Montana, which have unique regulatory requirements for life insurance companies.

If you gain weight after you buy life insurance, your rate won’t change. Once your coverage is locked in, your insurer can’t raise your premium, even if you develop health conditions from weight gain.

Compare quotes side-by-side using NerdWallet’s life insurance tool

Below are the average rates for a 20-year $500,000 term life insurance policy.

Body Mass Index

Finding your body mass index, or BMI, which takes into account your height and weight, can give you an estimate of your weight category. Use this calculator from the CDC to learn yours.

BMI and weight status

Underweight: Less than 18.5
Healthy weight: 18.5 to 24.9
Overweight: 25.0 to 29.9
Obese: 30 or more

Cities with public health initiatives

Losing weight is no small task, but many cities have created initiatives to help residents embrace healthier lifestyles.

Boston, Massachusetts

Bostonians benefit from city programs — such as those launched by the Boston Public Health Commission — promoting healthy eating and exercise. One of the commission’s campaigns, Boston Moves for Health, is aimed at increasing opportunities for residents to exercise.

San Francisco, California

Residents in the foggy city enjoy over 220 parks, which allows for plenty of outdoor space to exercise. To combat conditions such as obesity, Shape Up San Francisco organizes a walking challenge that encourages residents to record their physical activity over a 10-week period. In addition, the coalition raises awareness about the health effects of sugary drinks through their Open Truth ad campaign.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle organizations such as Seattle Parks and Recreation make healthy living a social priority by organizing fitness and educational programs. Residents use community centers to pursue active lives. In addition, there’s nutrition classes and a Soda Free Sundays Challenge — a campaign to curb soda consumption, a main contributor to obesity.

Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is not only home to the governing body of the nation, but also to a healthy living scene. The D.C. Central Kitchen recognizes that obesity is more prevalent in low-income families. To combat this, they work with other organizations to provide over 5,000 free healthy meals daily to disadvantaged residents.

Portland, Maine

Portland is known for its scenery and organic produce. Organizations such as Healthy Portland help keep residents eating well by encouraging locally owned restaurants to include calorie information in their menus. The city also boasts community gardens where residents can grow their own vegetables.

Metro areas with the highest obesity rates

Some cities have higher obesity rates than others. Below is a list of the major U.S. metro areas with the highest obesity rates, according to the CDC.


We averaged quotes for 35-year-old and 45-year-old men and women for a 20-year $500,000 term life insurance policy, based on data from the NerdWallet life insurance comparison tool.

Figures are averages of profiles for men and women who are underweight, at a healthy weight, overweight or obese, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC defines these weight categories using a Body Mass Index calculation, which factors in a person’s height and weight.

We used the average height of men (69.3 inches) and women (63.8 inches) over age 20, and the following weights to create eight profiles: underweight (men at 120 pounds and 100 pounds for women), healthy weight (160 pounds for men and 130 pounds for women), overweight (190 pounds for a man and 160 pounds for a woman) and obese (250 pounds for a man and 200 pounds for a woman).

Jeffrey Chu is an analyst covering insurance for NerdWallet.

Image via iStock.