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High risk life insurance

What are the factors that can make insurers view you as 'high-risk'? Whatever your lifestyle and health profile, we'll help you find a policy that works for you.

Last updated: 02/02/2023 | Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

Old age, unhealthy habits, and dangerous hobbies can all make you ‘high risk’ in the eyes of life insurance providers. But this doesn’t mean you can’t find cover.

People who are high risk will typically pay more for their life insurance premiums, however, there may be other ways to keep your costs down. Compare life insurance quotes today to see how much it will cost you to find cover.

In This Guide:

What is high risk life insurance?

High risk life insurance is a life insurance policy designed for those who are deemed to be 'high risk' to insurers due to lifestyle choices or current health status. This type of cover will often cost more per month than a standard life insurance policy. 

How much does high risk life insurance cost?

The cost of your life insurance largely depends on how likely you are to pass away within the policy term. This risk will be calculated based on various factors about you and your life, including your and occupation.

As a general rule of thumb, however, the higher risk posed by your lifestyle choices and habits, the higher your premiums.

Different insurers will place different weight on different aspects of your lifestyle and health when calculating your premiums, and some will exclude customers from cover altogether if they are deemed too high a risk, so you should always read your policy small print before you sign on the dotted line.

What makes someone high risk for life insurance?

Insurers will look at many different factors when considering how much of a risk you are to them, including:


Put simply, the older you are, the closer you are to the end of your life. Therefore, older customers will, all other things being equal, pay more than younger customers for their cover.

Of course, if you’re younger and have your policy open for longer before you pass away, you may end up paying more overall for your policy, but potentially less each month than you would if you took out a policy at a later stage in life.

Health issues

Another highly important factor that will affect the cost of your cover will be your overall state of health. This includes any health issues you currently have, including serious illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Your life insurance premiums will largely be dependent on the number of health conditions you have and the severity of them; a diabetic with a family history of heart disease may be charged more than someone whose only known condition is mild asthma.

Unhealthy lifestyle choices

Various aspects of your lifestyle will also affect your health in a way that the insurance companies will see as relevant.

Smoking is a big example of this. You’ll have to let your insurer know if you’re a smoker as this will increase the cost of your policy. Generally, in order to be able to say you aren’t a smoker, you’ll need to be nicotine free for at least 12 months, but you should check with your provider

Also, people who smoke vapes or e-cigarettes will also count as smokers to insurers, partly because the long-term effects of vaping are still relatively unknown.

Insurers will sometimes require you to be tested for nicotine, so if you do only smoke e-cigarettes, you’ll still show up as positive on such a test.

When you apply for life insurance, you’ll also be asked how much alcohol you drink when building up your health profile. Naturally, the more you drink, the more your policy may cost.

On the other hand, you may be able to decrease the cost of your premiums by showing that you lead a particularly healthy lifestyle by, for example, exercising regularly or having a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Dangerous hobbies and pastimes

If you regularly partake in dangerous pastimes such as sky diving or mountaineering, your insurer will want to know as this could increase the risk of you making a claim. Some insurers will even exclude certain people from cover if they take part in any particularly dangerous activities with high associated mortality rates.

What hobbies are considered high risk?

If you are into high risk activities in your free time, you might need to declare these to your insurance provider. Some hobbies are typically considered high risk and could increase your insurance premiums but this will differ between insurers. These include:

  • Skydiving
  • Mountaineering
  • Hang gliding

Naturally you can partake in these different types of hobbies, but you might need to declare them to your life insurance company. If you don't, you might not be covered if the worst happens whilst you are engaging in one of these activities.

Dangerous occupations

Certain jobs are also considered dangerous, particularly ones which have high mortality rates, such as working on an oil rig or in a mine.

If you are employed in a particularly dangerous line of work, you might find your life insurance more expensive and some insurers will flat out to refuse people based on their job. Soldiers, for example, may have a hard time taking out a life insurance policy.

What jobs are considered high risk?

There are quite a few occupations that might be considered high-risk by an insurance company and may result in more expensive monthly premiums. These occupations often include:

  • Armed Services
  • Firefighters
  • Construction workers, roofers & scaffolders
  • Underground workers 

Can I still get life insurance if I have serious pre-existing health conditions?

This depends on the condition, but you usually will still be able to take out life insurance policy even if you have serious health issues. It may have some conditions or exclusions attached though.

If you’ve had a heart attack in the past, or if you’ve had repeated instances of a serious medical condition, your cover may require you to exclude these conditions from your policy. Some insurance providers may not exclude it from your policy, but could charge a higher monthly premium, as you will be considered to be more likely to make a claim compared to the average healthy person.

Usually, each condition will be looked into on a case-by-case basis. Insurers will usually take into account when you were diagnosed, as well as how severe the condition is.

If you are over 50, you can take out an over 50s life insurance policy. With this type of policy, health issues are not taken into account, so if you have any pre-existing conditions that are preventing you from getting an affordable insurance policy, this could be a viable option for you although the amount of cover provided will usually be lower.

What if I’ve had a history of family health issues?

Most insurers will also ask to look at your family medical history when deciding the cost of the policy they offer you. This is because there are many health problems that can be inherited, or at the very least the risk of contracting them may be increased if you have a family history of that particular problem. Asthma is a good example of this, as are a variety of heart conditions.

How is my health risk determined?

When you apply for life insurance, you will have to answer a variety of questions about your health and lifestyle. The exact nature of these questions will vary depending on the insurance provider, but they will typically ask you questions such as whether you smoke, how much, how much you drink, your job and pastimes and any health conditions you or your family have had.

You must be truthful when answering these questions. If you are found to be withholding any relevant information, or downplaying how much you drink or smoke, your policy could be invalidated when it comes to making a claim.

Some insurers will also require you to undergo a medical exam. These will typically involve a few simple checks like blood tests and blood pressure checks, although these are not usually compulsory.

If the idea of a medical exam feels a bit intrusive or makes you uncomfortable, take a look at our page on getting life insurance without a medical.

How can I lower my risk to insurers?

Making certain changes to your lifestyle and proving this to your insurance provider can help to bring down your premium.

For example, doing more exercise and quitting smoking are two of the best things you can do to lower your risk. You can prove these things to your insurer by showing evidence of a gym membership, or taking a nicotine test.

Other things that can lower your risk and help you to get cheaper life insurance include drinking less alcohol and moving to a lower-risk job.

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