How your family medical history can affect your life insurance premium

Many factors can affect the rate you pay for life insurance, from your age and physical wellbeing to your medical history. But you may not be aware that the medical history of your immediate and even extended family can sometimes play a part in helping your insurers determine your risk.

There are good reasons why insurers wish to know the medical history of people such as your parents and siblings – known as ‘direct relatives’ – as any hereditary diseases or other medical conditions common in your family could potentially pose a problem for you in the future. In the view of insurers, this means you may be more likely to make a claim on your policy.

Insurers not only take into account the type of disease, but also the age of your relatives when it afflicted them, with most companies disregarding illnesses that were diagnosed after the age of 60 or 65. Mental illness can prove just as important as physical diseases too, as a history of depression or suicide in your family could also influence your premium.

However, some insurers have been criticised for charging higher premiums to policyholders with family members who suffered illnesses caused by environmental factors rather than due to genetics, such as elderly relatives with a history of strokes, cancer or coronary artery disease. In these instances, customers should not be charged higher premiums for life insurance, as there’s no reason to expect these same conditions to affect them.

That’s why it’s essential to compare life insurance before you buy, to find which providers take such factors into account, and which focus exclusively on conditions that are relevant to your situation. Sometimes, information on policy underwriting will not be available to customers, only to specialist agents, which is why hiring a broker or speaking to an adviser could be beneficial in helping you find the right life insurance policy.

It’s not just the medical history of you and your family that insurers are interested in either, and you should be equally aware of how your lifestyle could be pushing up your life insurance premiums. You are obliged to tell your insurer if you indulge in activities that may put your health at risk, such as drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, as well as any life-threatening activities you regularly take part in, such as skydiving or bungee jumping, as these could conceivably put you at greater risk of making claims.

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