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How Does Your Family Medical History Affect the Cost of Life Insurance?

Will my family’s medical history affect a life insurance application?

When will you die?

That’s the question life insurance providers want to be answered more than any other.

If they nail this, they make money, if they get it wrong they lose money. It’s that simple.

That’s why they employ actuaries to sift through mortality rates and examine morbidity risks to figure out the chances of you outliving your policy.

The actuaries look at factors such as:

  • your health
  • your age
  • your sex
  • whether you smoke

to estimate how long you’re going to live.

But they also look at your family history as sometimes medical conditions are hereditary (a fancy way of saying you’re more likely to get it)

Will my parent’s health be held against me?

Let’s look at a sample “family history” question from a life insurance application form:

Have any of your parents, brothers or sisters ever had one or more of the following medical conditions before age 65:

  1. Breast or ovarian cancer?
  2. Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone disease or Parkinson’s disease
  3. Bowel or colon cancer?
  4. Stroke or heart disease (for example heart attack or angina)?
  5. Cardiomyopathy?
  6. Muscular dystrophy of any kind?
  7. Polycystic kidney disease?
  8. Huntington’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease?
  9. Any type of cancer that has occurred in the same site in two or more family members?
  10. Any disorder which you know or suspect to be hereditary or for which you have received follow up or screening?

Anything there that causes you to raise an eyebrow?

What happens to your life insurance premiums if there is bad health in your family?

A family history of disease or death, especially occurring at a young age, may imply that you are also at increased risk for the same or related illness.

Most diseases have some genetic component but environmental and lifestyle factors also play an important part.

A family history of any of the following in a first-degree relative is considered relevant when assessing insurance applications:

  • Heart disease or heart attack
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HOCM)
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease
  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Motor neurone disease
  • Polycystic kidneys
  • Polyposis of the colon
  • Huntington’s disease

The possibility of cover depends on the nature of the family history, your current age and gender, the number of first degree relatives affected by the condition, the age your family member was when diagnosed, and other associated health issues that you suffer with.

The underwriters will make one of four decisions after reviewing your medical evidence.

1. Exclude a certain condition from your policy.

Family history of breast cancer

Let’s say you’re a 30-year-old female whose mother and sister got breast cancer in their 40’s. You’re looking for critical illness cover. The insurers will offer you serious illness cover but will exclude breast cancer cover from your policy on family history grounds.

Family history of MS

You’re a 35-year-old male whose father contracted MS in his 40s. You have applied for income protection. The insurers will offer you cover at the normal price but will exclude MS as a reason for claiming on your policy.

Please note, for life insurance and mortgage protection, you either get full cover or no cover. There are no exclusions.

2. Increase your premium

Family history of Polycystic Kidney Disease

Your mum had a kidney transplant at age 55. You’re 35 and need mortgage protection. You have been tested for PKD and your scans were normal. You’ll get cover but the insurer will increase your premium due to the higher risk of developing PKD.

3. Postpone your application

Usually only happens where you are awaiting screening for a certain illness.

Using the PKD example above, if you were awaiting a kidney scan, the insurer would postpone making a decision until the results were available

4. Decline your application

Declines are rare.

But I have seen a young male (smoker) with a high BMI declined who would normally get cover. Sadly,  there was a long history of cardiovascular disease in his immediate family as both parents and two of his brothers had suffered heart attacks before they had reached their 50th birthday.

Do the various insurers underwrite family history differently?

Yes, all insurance providers follow a different set of underwriting guidelines.

For instance, some insurers are only interested in health issues that occurred before age 50, others look at family history right up at age 65.

This means if your mum got breast cancer at age 51, some insurers will ignore this fact, others may apply an exclusion to your policy.

Be careful which insurer you apply to. Always apply to the one who has the most sympathetic underwriting criteria for your family history.

Over to you…

If there’s a history of illness in your family and you’d like to give yourself the best chance of getting cover with the least amount of hassle, please get in touch.

Complete this form below or call me on

We’re the experts when it comes to arranging life insurance if you family medical history isn’t clean as a whistle.

It goes without saying that everything we discuss will be in the strictest confidence….but I’ll say it anyway, just to be sure like 😉

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