Life insurance and alcohol

Social drinking won't affect your ability to qualify — but excessive drinking will.

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Having a glass of wine at night likely won’t affect your life insurance application at all. But a history of alcoholism, or undiagnosed problematic drinking, will.

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How does my drinking affect my life insurance?

If you drink occasionally and it doesn’t affect your health, it likely won’t affect your ability to qualify at all.

But if you drink excessively and/or you have a history of alcoholism, it can lead to higher insurance premiums.

And if you have other health problems caused by your drinking, or you drink heavily enough that you’re likely to have health problems from it in the future, you may not qualify for a medically underwritten policy.

Why do insurers care how much I drink?

Life insurance is paid out when you die, so it’s in your insurance company’s best interest for you to live as long as possible. Healthy people generally pay the lowest rates, because they’re the lowest risk for the insurer.

Heavy drinking increases your risk because of the health problems it can cause, including:

  • Liver disease
  • Long-term heart damage
  • Stroke
  • Elevated blood pressure levels
  • Accidental injury and even death

What questions will I be asked about my alcohol use?

When you apply for life insurance you may be required to complete a questionnaire related to your alcohol consumption. Typical questions can include:

  • Number of alcoholic beverages per day
  • If you’ve suffered any medical conditions related to the consumption of alcohol
  • If you’ve met with a doctor or sought medical counseling relating to alcohol consumption
  • If you’ve had to take time off work due to alcohol consumption
  • Details of your driving records.

Based on the results of your questionnaire you may be required to undertake additional medical testing.

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What is the accepted alcohol intake by an insurance provider’s standard?

How many drinks you can have per week without it affecting your rates varies between insurers. But you’ll generally get the best rates if you stay below:

  • 14 a week or having 4 per day for men
  • 7 a week or having 3 per day for women

What if my alcohol intake is significantly higher than this standard?

If you consume more alcohol than what is stated as the maximum amount of alcohol a week, you’ll likely be viewed as an increased level of risk by your insurer — expect your premiums to rise.

If you feel like your drinking is problematic, or you want to cut down to help with your premiums, talk with your doctor to get help quitting.

What are the red flags that can indicate alcohol abuse?

Symptoms that can signify health issues due to excessive alcohol consumption will be looked for during your medical examination. In the early stages of alcoholism, the symptoms can include blackouts, accidents and sicknesses you can’t explain. You can also develop physical problems and previous health issues may worsen.

As alcohol dependence worsens, long-term heavy drinkers generally start to experience more noticeable and definable symptoms, which can include:

  • Lack of appetite and weight loss
  • Small blood vessels on your skin
  • Redness on the face, especially on the nose and cheeks
  • Impotence
  • Swelling of the palms of hands
  • Sore or upset stomach
  • Unsteadiness when on feet
  • Liver problems

If you are an alcoholic or you drink excessively, talk to your doctor to come up with a safe plan to quit drinking. Alcohol withdrawal can have serious side effects, like seizures, delirium and death, and your doctor can help you detox safely and stay sober.

How to seek help

If you think you may be an alcoholic, or if you’re a recovering alcoholic and you’re worried you might relapse, call 800-662-4357 to reach the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s hotline.

Trained specialists are available 24 hours a day and can provide free and confidential information about substance abuse and referrals to treatment options near you.

What life insurance providers should I apply to if I’m a recovering alcoholic?

You’ll generally have to prove to the company that you’re no longer an alcoholic with medical documentation. Someone who has went to and completed a rehabilitation program will likely have higher chances of approval as well.

The following life insurance providers are most likely to grant a policy to a recovering alcoholic:

Other companies that may approve you for a policy are Transamerica and AIG.

Is it possible for alcoholics to apply for life insurance?

If you’re a confirmed alcoholic who’s still drinking heavily, the chances of you obtaining life insurance are slim — or it will be extremely expensive. However, if you’re a recovering alcoholic, you’ll typically be able to get a policy. Some advice to think about if you’re a recovering alcoholic and shopping for life insurance is:

  • Document how giving up or substantially cutting down your alcohol intake has improved your health.
  • Evidence of your progress supported by a health care professional can lend credibility to your application.
  • Avoid any relapses, providers will see this as a big red flag.
  • Let your insurer know if you’re attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
  • Inform your insurer if you’ve successfully completed any other rehabilitation programs.
  • If you’ve never had a DUI, provide a copy of your driving record.
  • Providing medical proof that you have a healthy liver can be beneficial.

Taking this advice into consideration will generally improve your chances of finding a life insurance policy. Be sure to research different companies and see which provider can offer you coverage that’s ideal for your individual situation.

How will a DUI affect life insurance?

If you have a DUI on your record, you’ll have a harder time getting life insurance. Most companies will deny you coverage if you’ve had a DUI conviction in the last year, while others will significantly raise your rates.

In the eyes of an insurer, drunk driving is risky – and potentially fatal. In 2017 alone, there were 10,874 deaths caused by drunk-driving crashes, according to the National Highway for Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

With a DUI to your name, you can expect to pay more for life insurance for at least five years. Your best bet is to look for insurers who specialize in high-risk applicants, or take out an annual renewable term policy (ART) until you become eligible for better rates.

Either way, be upfront about your DUI on your application, and prepare to answer questions about your driving record and alcohol use. Depending on the policy you’re applying for, the insurer might cross-check your answers with motor vehicle and medical records, and lying is considered fraud.

Bottom line

While the occasional drink won’t affect your life insurance rates, problematic drinking can. If you’re concerned about your drinking habits, talk to your doctor about cutting back or stopping altogether in a safe and healthy way. And if you’re a social drinker with healthy habits, compare life insurers to find the best deal on a policy.

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