Have you filled in a life assurance application recently? There’s a little box that strikes fear into the heart of the “slightly overweight”. It simply asks you to state your weight. Do you go straight to the scales, undress to the state of nudity and jiggle about on the said scales, trying to pinpoint the lowest mark on the gauge? No, I thought not, you probably take a vague and over optimistic guess, write it in and swiftly move on to the next question. Most of us do it. It’s not really cheating. You know you’re going to lose it soon, before Christmas/holidays/the wedding. If only!
Now, one of Britain’s biggest names in life insurance, namely Scottish Provident, in an effort gain more accuracy in working out the risk factors, has added another innocent little question, i.e. When did you last weigh yourself? Aware of the fact that many people are self conscious about their weight and tend forget the odd few pounds gained since they were last on their “diet to end all diets”, they feel that this should help to give a true picture of their clients potential health risks. It should also be noted that there are some people who will lie in an effort to obtain cheaper premiums.
Scottish Provident are quite rightly concerned that they are being told the truth. The UK government are taking obesity very seriously and it has been announced recently that almost a quarter of us are overweight, and it’s thought by Cancer research UK that around a quarter of these are not interested in losing weight. We are second only to Greece in obesity levels as a nation.
The definition of obesity is based on the British Medical Association’s Body Mass Index (BMI). To work this out, you need to know your height in metres and then multiply by the same figure. Take the result of this and divide by your weight, using kilograms. This gives you your BMI, which can be used to indicate if you are underweight, normal, overweight or obese. It will, however, overestimate fatness in people who are muscular or athletic. These figures are for adults.
BMI categories are
Underweight = less than 18.5
Normal weight = 18.5 to 24.9
Overweight = 25 to 29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
In a recent study of 33,000 adults reported in the Lancet, the above figures for normal weight were agreed and there was a suggestion was that only adult patients with a BMI of 35 or above would present a serious lowering of life expectancy.
Most of the life insurance industry has accepted a BMI level of 30, which seems fair and even generous. For anyone with a BMI of over 30 your premium will be loaded and you may even be asked to take a medical examination. This means if you’re overweight you could find your critical illness or life assurance premium could increase by 50% and it seems likely that for some, cover could be refused.
It’s a risky business!