Life insurance and alcohol: What you need to know

14 min Read Published: 10 Sep 2020

As an insurance adviser, I have spoken to many people who had alcohol-related concerns through the years and needed specialist advice to arrange life insurance. Some had received advice to reduce their drinking; some drank more than they thought and some had suffered quite serious health issues as a result of drinking too much and were struggling to secure cost-effective life insurance.

Different insurance companies have different rules on how they assess the risk posed by drinking alcohol and how this impacts the monthly premium. Therefore it is vital that you source the insurance company that will give you the best outcome available. Simply opting for the cheapest life insurance quote may lead you to companies who are less keen to cover you and who may even decline your application once further information comes to light.  In most cases, I was able to arrange cover and so in this article I'll explain:

The process of applying for life insurance - Alcohol Consumption / Alcohol Dependency

Insurance companies ask detailed questions to understand an individual’s risk profile before offering life cover. They take into account a number of factors including your age, whether you smoke as well as your gender. They also consider your medical history as well as your lifestyle when deciding at what level to set your monthly premiums but also whether to reject your application altogether. The good news is that alcohol-related deaths are covered by most life insurance policies and the policy will pay out as long as you are honest and upfront and disclose all information when you apply. If you have received a life insurance application decision that was not acceptable to you it will be reassuring to know that not all companies who provide life cover make the same decisions and there may be other companies that will give you a better outcome.

What questions will you have to answer when you apply?

Life insurance can be difficult to arrange if you drink/drank more alcohol than the recommended levels. Insurance companies ask detailed questions to understand your unique risk profile before offering life cover.

A typical life cover application will ask you about your:

  • Health and Wellbeing: your health, past and present as well as your family's medical history
  • Way of Life: smoking, drinking, hobbies and pursuits
  • Work-Life: what work you do and your work environment

The application will prompt you to share:

  • How much alcohol you currently drink
  • Medical advice you may have received to reduce your alcohol consumption
  • The effect of alcohol on your health and wellbeing

Besides these questions, there will be others within the application that might reveal an alcohol-related health impact, alcohol dependency and/or mental health concerns related to alcohol. Answering questions accurately and honestly will ensure that if the insurance company accepts your application that you never jeopardise a claim being paid out.

Will the insurance company write to your doctor about your alcohol consumption?

Some insurance companies only ask for the facts but some will be keen to understand your background and life circumstances in relation to your alcohol use. It can be difficult to discuss these things but it could help your application. The insurer may write to your doctor for further details of your health and/or send you an alcohol questionnaire. This will give the insurer a wider view of your health. If you feel your medical records don’t cover everything or you disagree with what is stated, you can tell the insurer but also speak to your GP and ask for your notes to be amended where this is relevant.

The medical report that your GP sends to the insurer (with your permission) and any questionnaires you complete may not give all the information that you feel is relevant. This can be the case particularly if you've experienced a life event that has lead to drinking excessively.  It is important that what you say and your doctor says match and if you are unsure of the answers to any questions at any point, you must relay this so that the insurer takes on the responsibility of ensuring they have the correct information before offering you life cover.

How to increase the chance of being accepted for life insurance even after previously being declined

Whether you are applying for insurance for the first time or have previously been declined, speaking to a life insurance specialist, such as LifeSearch*, can save you the tricky work of navigating an application on your own. A specialist adviser will sensitively walk you through the application process, avoiding any possible pitfalls. What you tell the insurer about your past or present alcohol-related health concerns can result in an increase to the cost of the cover or the application being declined altogether, so seeking some guidance around what to share and how can be invaluable.

For some people, the circumstances of their alcohol-related concerns might have been short-lived and easy to explain, but for others, there may be more information and background to share. It can feel intrusive and difficult to share this information but a detailed account should assist the insurer and help to make a fairer decision. If you've chosen to use a specialist adviser*, they will be able to help you with this.

What information should you prepare to support your life insurance application?

Whether you’ve already applied for life cover and are looking for a different solution or you’re thinking of applying, you should prepare the following information to get started (for accuracy, you may want to check the facts recorded by your GP):

  • The number of units of alcohol you consume in an average week (see table below for how to work this out)
  • If you were medically advised to reduce your alcohol consumption, find out when, by whom and why.
  • If you have reduced your alcohol consumption, note the consumption for when you were drinking above the recommended levels.
  • The specific diagnosis of any medical impact on your health, if any.
  • Any treatment that you may have received for alcohol-related concerns.
  • Any related mental health concerns (these may be difficult to share but will be important).
  • If you have the results of any tests (e.g. a liver function test) - these can be useful as they give a picture of your alcohol marker.

How to work out how many units of alcohol are in your drink:

Type of Alcohol Volume & ABV % Number of Alcohol Units
Single shot of spirits 25ml, ABV 40% 1.5 units
Small glass of wine 125ml, ABV 12% 1.5 units
Standard glass of wine 175ml, ABV 12% 2.1 units
Large glass of wine 250ml, ABV 12% 3 units
Bottle of lager/beer/cider 330ml, ABV 5% 1.7 units
Lower-strength lager/beer/cider 1 Pint, ABV 3.6% 2 units
Higher-strength lager/beer/cider 1 Pint, ABV 5.2% 3 units

You will be asked how many units of alcohol you drink, on average, each week - make sure you average your consumption out. So, if you drink 8 units for 3 weeks of the month but the 4th week you drink 20 then your average consumption is 11 units per week in that month. You'll also be asked whether you have been advised to reduce your alcohol consumption by a medical professional and in some cases, you may be asked if you have ever committed any drink related offences.

What can you do to get the best rate for your life insurance?

If you have a history of alcohol-related concerns and you are still drinking then it is unlikely that you will be able to arrange life insurance. However, if your concerns are behind you and you’re not drinking anymore or have significantly reduced your drinking, then there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to find a life insurance company that will cover you. You should expect that if you have had any concerns within the last 5 years your life monthly insurance premiums will be higher than the initial quote you have received. However, if your alcohol-related concerns were more than 5 years ago and you have no ongoing adverse health impacts then you may be able to arrange life insurance without any increase to the quoted monthly premiums.

If you have already received a decision after applying for life cover, the answers to the questions we have covered in this article may help to explain the decision but you'll probably need the help of a life insurance specialist* to understand this fully. A specialist broker will understand what details are important; the reasons why the decision was made and will try to align you with a company that is likely to provide a better price for the life insurance you’re looking for. They'll usually do this by approaching a number of companies anonymously on your behalf and share their outcomes with you. Not only this, but they’ll make sure that you’re choosing the right type and amount of life insurance too, ensuring that it is also placed into a trust so that it can reach your chosen beneficiaries quickly if it is ever needed. LifeSearch* is a specialist broker company that provides this guidance and advice without charging a fee and offers a £50 cashback reward for Money to the Masses readers once your cover is in place.

If you're trying to keep the life cover affordable there are ways of tailoring the cover benefits to suit you. An independent life insurance specialist will work with you to tailor the benefits to fit your needs. They will work to your budget and give you the support you need to ensure that you’re not wasting time applying for cover that you won’t get and/or accepting a decision that doesn’t seem fair.

 

If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link, Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses and do not wish to qualify for the cashback referred to in the article - LifeSearch

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