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Life insurance and diabetes

3.5 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes, while an additional half a million are estimated to be living undiagnosed with the condition. That means 6% of the UK's population suffers from the disease, which can shorten lifespans, both by causing longterm health problems and sudden deaths.

These complications are obviously a concern for person with diabetes and their loved ones. And they're also a financial consideration for insurers, which regard people with diabetes as more risky and expensive to insure and consequently charge them higher premiums for protection insurance products, including life insurance. Some policy providers will even deny coverage to people with diabetes all together.

Don't despair though: although you'll likely face higher costs, diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, doesn't make you ineligible for life insurance. There is a policy out there that can affordably provide you and your loved ones with peace of mind and financial security should the worst occur. Meanwhile, you can reduce your premiums and increase your eligibility-and improve your health and lifespan-by managing your diabetes well.

In This Guide:

Diabetes and lifespan

Exposure to the high blood sugar levels caused by diabetes over long periods of time can give rise to serious complications, including kidney disease and cardiovascular disease, which can lead to early death. In conjunction with the high blood pressure and high cholesterol that often accompanies, high blood sugar can lead to poor circulation, causing damage to organs, eyes, and nerves, and lead to blindness and amputations.

Type 2 diabetes, which 90% of those with diabetes have, typically reduces lifespans by a decade. Traditionally, those with Type 1 diabetes-previously known as juvenile diabetes-saw their lives shortened by up to 20 years. These people are often develop and are diagnosed in childhood; exposure to high levels of blood sugar over decades can be damaging to their health. However, with the development of better diabetes treatments, lifespans even among Type 1 patients, have increased. A recent 30-year study found that people with type 1 born after 1965 had a life expectancy of 69 years-only around a decade shorter than the 77 years (for males) and 81 years (for females) the ONS forecasts for new births.

In the short term, crises like hypoglycaemia and diabetic ketoacidosis can be immediately fatal.

According to the charity Diabetes UK, 500 people in the UK are dying prematurely each weak because of avoidable diabetes complications. And with around half of the UK's working population holding life insurance policies, that represents a significant expense for insurers. In fact, among people living with Type 1 diabetes, people aged between 35 and 64-prime ages for holding life insurance-are between three and four times more likely to die prematurely than those without the condition.

Applying for insurance with diabetes

As with any pre-existing health condition, if you've been diagnosed with diabetes, you'll need to disclose this when you apply for life insurance. Failing to do so can invalidate your policy and lead to the rejection of claims.

As part of their underwriting process, insurers will want to know the following information about your condition:

  • the date you were diagnosed and your age then
  • the type of diabetes you have (1 or 2)
  • the medication you take to manage it (for example, metformin or insulin)
  • your latest HbA1c reading, which can give an idea of what your average blood sugar levels have been over the recent weeks and months
  • your Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist, height, and weight measurements
  • existing diabetic complications you have, for example nerve damage, circulation problems, retinopathy, and nephropathy
  • You'll probably also need to have a medical exam and to provide details about your treatment, obtained from your GP.

    If you have diabetes, some insurers may refuse to offer you a policy. This is more likely if:

  • if your HbA1c readings are over 10% (85.8 mmol/mol)
  • if your BMI is especially high (in the obese category)
  • if you have severe diabetes complications
  • if you have a heart condition or have had a heart attack
  • if you smoke
  • If you have been rejected by one insurer, don't give up. Seek out additional quotes from other firms. Some insurers are known for being more diabetes friendly' than others. And the more policies you compare, the more likely you are to find one with competitive premiums.

    Diabetes and insurance premiums

    A diabetes diagnosis will almost certainly raise your insurance premiums, but the extent will depend on how well your condition is controlled. If you can demonstrate that you have and stick to a treatment regime and keep your blood sugar low, and provide up to date and comprehensive details about your medical history as part of your application, you're more likely to be accepted for a policy, and at a good rate.

    Generally, your premiums will be commensurate to the severity of your diabetes, as measured by your HbA1c readings-as if you needed any more motivation to keep up top of your diet and medication. Additionally, the better you manage your weight, the lower premiums will be. Among people with type 2 diabetes, high BMIs are associated with higher mortality-representing a greater risk and expense for insurers.

    The goods news is that if you obtained a life insurance policy before being diagnosed with diabetes, you won't have to update the policy after diagnosis and can continue to pay the same premiums.