Life insurance and mental health

We take a look at your life insurance options if you have a mental health condition or have had one in the past.

If you have a mental health condition, you’re far from alone. It’s estimated that, in any given week, one in six people in England experience a common mental health problem.

If you’re considering buying life insurance, you might be concerned that your mental health issues will make it harder to get cover.

In practice, life insurers will usually be happy to cover all but the most serious or complicated mental health disorders, and in many cases your condition shouldn’t even increase your premiums.

In this guide, we’ve answered some of the key questions about life insurance and mental health.

Find help with mental health issues

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, there is help available. A good starting point is the charity Mind, which provides an information and signposting service to help you find the right support, as well as a legal information and advice line. Or if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the Samaritans for FREE at any time of day or night on 116 123. For other ways to get in touch visit the Samaritans website.

What is classed as a mental health condition?

A mental health condition is a disorder that affects your mood, behaviour or thinking.

There can be many types of mental health condition, and the root causes behind them can be very different, but a key similarity is that they are all likely to have a significant impact on your psychological wellbeing.

Mental health conditions can include anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Can I get life insurance if I have a mental health condition?

In most cases, yes.

If your mental health condition has a long-term negative impact on your day to day activity, it is likely to be regarded as a disability (visit our guide on life insurance and disabilities for more on this), and therefore covered by the Equality Act 2010. Under this act, insurers must not refuse to insure you or offer you worse terms just because you are disabled.

Regardless of whether your mental health condition is officially classed as a disability, it will usually still be possible to get life insurance. However, if an insurer can show that your mental health condition could increase your likelihood of making a claim, it may charge you more for life insurance or apply an exclusion for your condition. In rare circumstances, it may decline to cover you.

Why does a life insurance provider need to know about mental health conditions?

Life insurers need to know about any health conditions that could have an impact on your likelihood of making a claim, as this affects whether they are able to offer you cover and how much they will charge for it.

It’s important to be honest about any mental health conditions as part of your application. It may not even affect your premium, but if you lie about or don’t disclose any health conditions that come to light at the point of a claim being made, the payout may be reduced or even declined.

At the point of making a claim, your life insurer may request access to your medical records, which could reveal any conditions you hadn’t told them about.

What information about my mental health condition do I need to disclose to the life insurer?

You will need to answer any questions the insurer asks as part of your application. The precise questions will vary between insurers, but providers typically need to know:

  • The name of the condition.
  • When you were diagnosed.
  • How severe your symptoms are and how frequently you experience them.
  • How the condition affects your day-to-day life, for example, any absence from work.
  • How the condition has been treated, including any hospitalisations.
  • What medication, if any, you take for your condition.

Depending on your answers to its questions, a life insurer may also request your medical records, which are available from your GP. You don’t have to agree to this, but if you don’t the insurer may be unwilling to offer you cover, or only offer you cover that excludes your mental health condition.

Can you be denied life insurance because of a mental health condition?

You cannot be denied life insurance just because you have a mental health condition; in many cases, this would actually be illegal under the disability discrimination act.

However, if the symptoms and effects of your mental health condition are very severe and therefore likely to have a major impact on your life expectancy, some providers may decline to cover you.

This is more likely to be the case if you’ve had a serious mental health condition for a long time, particularly if you have been recently hospitalised as a result.

If you are declined cover with one provider, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to get life insurance, but you may need to find a specialist provider.

Could life insurance cost more if I have a mental health condition?

It depends entirely on the insurer and on the nature and severity of your mental health condition.

If you don’t take any medication and your symptoms are mild and infrequent, or you last experienced them years ago, your condition may not affect your premiums at all.

If you’ve experienced recent, severe symptoms or been recently hospitalised, your life insurance premiums are likely to be higher as a result.

Bear in mind that different providers have different underwriting criteria. One life insurer may charge much more than another for the same condition, so you should always shop around.

If you struggle to find affordable insurance by going directly to insurers, a specialist life insurance broker may be able to help.

Does a mental health condition count as a pre-existing condition?

Yes, as with any health condition, if you had the mental health disorder at the time you applied for the life insurance policy, it will count as a pre-existing condition.

It’s important to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions when you take out a policy, or you could risk your policy being invalid.

Has COVID-19 affected life insurance for people with mental health conditions?

Let’s not beat around the bush: COVID-19 has been hard on most people’s mental wellbeing. All of us are worried about the health of ourselves and our loved ones, and some may struggle with being stuck at home so much more than normal.

If you already have life insurance, any subsequent changes to your mental health as a result of the coronavirus outbreak will not affect your life insurance cover or premiums, as these are set at the point you take out cover.

If you have recently been diagnosed with a mental health condition and want to take out life insurance, providers will carry out the same assessments as they would under usual circumstances, and offer you cover based on your answers to the questions. In most cases, you should still be able to get cover, and there may be no impact on your premiums.

There is a chance that the application process may take a bit longer than usual, especially if the insurer needs to request medical information from your GP, as insurers will be mindful of the need to avoid putting unnecessary strain on the NHS.

Bottom line

Mental health disorders can range from mild conditions that only affect someone occasionally, to serious illnesses that require close medical attention. The nature and severity of the symptoms can also fluctuate over time.

This can make it a complex condition to insure against, but the good news is that life insurers are becoming ever better equipped to provide cover for people with mental health conditions. Most people that want it will be able to get life insurance.

Always shop around rather than accepting the first quote you get, though, as some insurers may weight the risks posed by your condition more harshly than others.

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