Many Americans have problems with alcohol abuse and addiction. Discover more on if alcohol can get you declined for life insurance.
When you really think about it, life insurance is highly unique. Compared to other forms of coverage that only care about the value of your property (i.e., home and auto), life insurance can be affected by your habits and choices.
Simply put, if you want to pay lower premiums and get a higher death benefit, you need to take care of yourself. No other form of insurance rewards behavior over intrinsic value.
To help illustrate this point, we want to talk about alcohol usage and its impact on getting a life insurance policy. While casual drinking shouldn’t be an issue, alcohol abuse or addiction can get you declined for life insurance.
Whether you’re currently struggling with this problem or you’re a recovering alcoholic, you need to understand how it will affect your rates and your ability to get approved.
How Alcohol Abuse Affects the Body
First and foremost, life insurance companies are all about assessing risk. If you’re putting yourself in danger, they won’t be willing to cover you. Alcohol and other controlled substances can have both immediate and long-lasting effects on your body, which insurers will look at closely. Here are a few of the potential reasons for alcohol getting you declined for life insurance.
Heavy drinking can put a lot of pressure on different parts of your body, but your heart will take much of it (after the liver). A single binge session can be damaging, but long-term alcoholism will create worsening effects, such as:
- Arrhythmia – also known as an irregular heartbeat. This problem can lead to blood clots, which can travel through the body and potentially block blood flow to the brain.
- Cardiovascular Myopathy – this is when the muscles of your heart start to droop and soften. The immediate result of this is that your heart can’t pump blood as effectively as before, which can increase the risk of a heart attack or blood clots.
- High Blood Pressure – the stress of alcohol abuse forces the heart to work harder, which can increase your blood pressure. Over time, the vessels can harden, which can lead to a stroke or an aneurysm.
Overall, heart problems can put you at a much higher risk of a stroke. In case you’re unfamiliar, strokes occur when there is an interruption of blood flow to the brain. As you can see, these issues caused by alcoholism can create such a dangerous situation.
Strokes can lead to brain damage and potentially death, depending on the circumstances. So, the higher your risk of getting a stroke, the more likely that you’ll either have to pay much higher premiums or get declined altogether.
Because your liver cleans your blood, it has to work overtime when you’re drinking. The more alcohol you consume, the more stress is put on your liver, which can lead to a variety of complications. Here are a few of them.
- Steatosis or Fatty Liver – technically speaking, you can get a fatty liver just from overeating. However, alcoholics can develop it much faster (think of a beer belly). When steatosis is caused by drinking, it can cause irreparable damage.
- Alcoholic Hepatitis – unlike steatosis, this condition is only caused by heavy drinking. Over time, liver cells get damaged and scarred, which can lead to jaundice, nausea, and stomach pain.
- Cirrhosis – like alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis is the term for damaged liver tissue. The effects of cirrhosis are similar to AH, and it can’t be reversed. If one continues to drink heavily, the damage can worsen and eventually cause liver failure.
Although the body has a remarkable capacity for recovery, liver damage is often irreparable. So, the longer you abuse alcohol, the worse your liver is going to get. Over time, you’ll build up fluid and toxins in your blood, which can lead to a variety of other symptoms and diseases. In rare cases, you may have to get a transplant.
Recent research has proven a clear link between alcohol abuse and some types of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, long-term heavy drinking can potentially lead to these cancers.
- Liver Cancer – damaged cells are more likely to become cancerous over time.
- Head and Neck Cancer – alcohol can damage the organs in your mouth and throat, which makes them more susceptible to cancer.
- Breast Cancer – although the risk associated with alcohol abuse and breast cancer isn’t too high (roughly 1.5 times more likely), it’s worth noting.
- Colorectal Cancer – like breast cancer, those who drink often have about a 1.5 times higher chance of developing this disease.
As more research continues into the risk factors for cancer, these statistics may fluctuate. No matter what, though, the fact that there is a clear correlation between alcohol abuse and cancer can make insurance companies nervous.
Since alcohol is a toxin, it can affect your body much more than you realize. Also, because your liver can only process a small amount of alcohol at any given time (and even less when it’s damaged), the toxicity of your blood will weaken your immune system.
Overall, heavy drinkers are far more likely to get diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis. Other pathogens can wreak havoc on the body if you drink regularly, which can further exacerbate any health problems you have already.
Beyond health problems, life insurance companies also recognize that alcohol abuse can impair your judgment, which may create other problems. For example, if you drink and drive, you’re much more likely to get into a collision, which could prove fatal.
Depending on your circumstances, alcohol can get you declined for life insurance simply because it puts you at risk of bodily harm. For example, if you operate heavy machinery for work, you have a higher chance of causing an accident.
Life Insurance for Recovering (or Recovered) Alcoholics
No matter what, if you are currently struggling with alcohol addiction, you will likely be declined for life insurance. Your priority should be to seek help so that you can overcome this life-threatening disease.
For those who have recovered, your options are much better, although it will depend on your specific situation. So, it’s helpful to be prepared for the questions you will be asked during your medical exam, such as:
Have you ever been treated for alcohol abuse?
Some examples of this would be if you went to rehab or were treated in a hospital for alcohol-related illnesses.
Are you currently undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse?
Again, if you’re struggling with alcoholism right now, you should wait before getting a life insurance policy. Typically, if you wait for at least two years (ideally five) after treatment, your outlook will be much more favorable.
Do you drink regularly? How much?
In most cases, recovering alcoholics will avoid drinking at all so that they won’t relapse. However, if you continue to drink in moderation, you will want to be open and honest during your exam. If you have a history of alcohol abuse and you lie about drinking now, it could potentially cause a denial of your policy.
Have you ever been arrested for a DUI or DWI?
Unfortunately, a DUI can impact your insurance rates, even if you’re not an alcoholic. The reason for this is that insurers worry that you could cause another collision.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), those who’ve had a DUI are 40-percent more likely to get into a fatal crash because of alcohol impairment. Multiple DUIs will likely get you declined altogether, particularly if they were within the last five years.
Another thing to be honest about is if you were arrested for other issues related to alcohol (i.e., public intoxication). While it may be tempting to leave these off of your questionnaire, omitting these details can get you denied if the insurance company finds out later. As a general rule, insurers have a two-year window to rescind coverage if they suspect or discover fraud.
Have you ever relapsed in your sobriety?
For many alcoholics, the struggle to stay sober is substantial. Unfortunately, it’s not too uncommon for alcoholics to relapse and require treatment again. If you have had multiple stints in rehab, it will lower your chances of getting the coverage you want. No matter what, you’ll have to pay higher premiums, even if your relapse was more than five years ago.
Have you used other drugs? Have you had treatment for drug abuse?
In many cases, alcohol addiction can lead to other drugs and controlled substances. As you can imagine, heavy drinking and drug use can cause much more damage to your body, making you an even higher risk. Typically, if you’ve been arrested for intoxication from alcohol and other substances, you will likely get denied.
Can Light to Moderate Alcohol Use Get Me Declined for Life Insurance?
As a general rule, insurance companies don’t worry if your drinking isn’t “excessive.” According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), men who drink more than four beverages per day or 14 per week are at risk. For women, those numbers are three per day and 10 per week.
So, if you fall within or below these guidelines, you shouldn’t have a problem with life insurance. However, as we mentioned, a DUI can affect your rates, even if you don’t drink often. Insurers are overly cautious. Unless you can prove that it was a one-time occurrence, they will see you as a higher risk. The same goes for other alcohol-related arrests, so you need to be careful when going out drinking, no matter how infrequent it may be.
Life Insurance and Alcohol-Related Deaths
One thing that you may be worried about is whether your loved ones will still get the death benefit if you die from an alcohol-related incident. For example, if you have a stroke or heart failure, or if you get into a fatal crash when driving under the influence.
In most cases, insurance companies will pay the benefit, there is suspicion of fraud. For example, if you lied on your medical exam and didn’t disclose a history of alcohol abuse, the company could deny the claim.
For drunk-driving incidents, some insurers will fight the claim in court since you were engaging in an illegal activity. In some instances, your insurance policy may not have this exact wording. This means that your beneficiaries don’t have to worry. However, if you have a history of alcohol abuse, or you have a DUI on your record already, then the insurance company will likely include this clause to protect its interests.
How Will My Rates Be Affected?
Each insurer is different, so you will want to compare companies and rates before making a final decision. As a rule, if you have a history of alcohol abuse, you can expect to pay 50 to 100-percent more than a non-alcoholic.
However, the longer it’s been since you’ve had problems, the lower that figure will be. As we mentioned, five years or more is ideal since it shows you are less likely to relapse.
Here are a few other ways to help mitigate the rate increase you might experience from alcohol abuse.
- Financial Stability – if alcohol isn’t draining your bank account, it shows that it’s not controlling you.
- Family Stability – in most cases, alcoholism can cause breakups and divorce. If your family unit is still strong and you have a vibrant support network, insurers believe that you can stay on the path of recovery.
- Ongoing Treatment (i.e., AA Meetings) – rehab is a good option for those currently struggling, but the temptation will always be present. Attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or other ongoing treatment shows that you play to stay sober.
- No Police Record – if you don’t have any DUIs or other arrests on your record, you might pay a little less, if you’re still in recovery.
Also, keep in mind that any alcohol-related illnesses or conditions can impact your rates. If you’re otherwise healthy, insurance companies will be more favorable.
Contact NextGen Life Insurance Today
Don’t despair – getting coverage is possible no matter your situation. Call us to find out how we can help you compare plans and rates. We’ll walk you through the process so that it’s as painless as possible.