Alcohol abuse is a disease that is characterized by a pattern of drinking excessively despite the negative effects of alcohol on the individual’s work, medical, legal and social life. Alcohol abuse carries with it both health and lifestyle issues that increase your risk of mortality. Alcoholics run risks such as liver damage, depression and risky behavior such as drinking and driving. For these reasons, alcohol consumption can significantly affect how much you pay for term life insurance.
Risk factors for alcoholism include:
- People who begin drinking at an early age are at a higher risk of alcohol dependence or abuse.
- Men are more likely to become dependent on alcohol than are women. However, women are at greater risk of developing some medical complications linked to drinking, such as liver disease.
- The risk of alcoholism is higher for people who have a parent who abused alcohol.
- It’s common for individuals with a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression to abuse alcohol or other substances.
As of 2011, the following numbers show the significance of alcoholism:
- It’s reported that 64% of Americans drink alcohol regularly
- Americans spend over $90 billion dollars total on alcohol each year.
- In the United States, every 30 minutes someone is killed in an alcohol-related traffic accident.
- About 28% of American adults drink at levels that put them at risk for alcohol dependence and alcohol-related problems.
- About 2 million people ages 12 – 20 are considered heavy drinkers, and 4.4 million are binge drinkers.
- The National Cancer Institute reported that heavy drinking as a lifestyle was the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
Treatment and Prevention
Treatment for alcoholism can begin only when the alcoholic accepts that the problem exists and decides that he or she wants to stop drinking. He or she must understand that alcoholism is curable and must be motivated to change. Treatment has three stages:
- Detoxification is the first stage. The alcoholic may need medical attention after discontinuing alcohol use. Detoxing can result in withdrawal seizures, hallucinations, and confusion of delirium tremens.
- The second stage is rehab. For most people who suffer from alcohol abuse, rehabilitation is necessary. Rehab involves counseling and medications for the recovering alcoholic to acquire the skills needed for maintaining sobriety. This step in treatment can be done, inpatient or outpatient. Either can be effective depending on the patient.
- The third stage is maintaining sobriety. This is arguably the most important step. It requires the alcoholic to be self-sufficient and motivated. The key to maintenance is having access to support such as a sponsor or group meetings.
What Life Insurance Companies Look For
Life insurance companies want to see that applicants with a history of alcohol abuse have (1) received full treatment, and (2) have completed regular follow-up visits per doctor’s orders.
The life insurance company you apply with will be looking specifically at:
- Your age at diagnosis
- The amount of time since diagnosis
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Drinking and driving convictions
- Length of time since treatment and recovery
- The treatment success and adherence to treatment recommendations
- Follow up visits as recommended by doctor
- Whether you are a tobacco or drug user
- Whether you have continued to drink
- Any other major health problems
How to Prepare for Your Term Life Insurance Application
There are important measures you can take to prepare yourself before applying for term life insurance. Doing so will help your chances of getting approved for the best rating class possible. Use the following tips to get the best possible rate:
- Have all doctors’ name/address/phone available.
- Make sure your doctor(s) has copies of all records regarding the cancer treatment, pathology reports, and follow-up reports.
- Have a list of all medications and their dosages available.
- Do not skip any follow-up visits with your doctor.
Real Examples from Real Customers
Samuel applied for life insurance when he was 52 years old.
- Diagnosed at age 39
- His medical records clearly document his successful treatment.
- No longer consumes alcohol
- Outcome: Approved at a Standard Plus rating class
- Premium: $221 annually
Not so Good Outcome:
Danielle applied for term life insurance when she was 42 years old.
- Diagnosed at age 39
- Follow up visits have been favorable
- Outcome: Approved for a Substandard Table 2 Rating
- Premium: $344 annually
Don applied for term life insurance when he was 59 years old.
- Not diagnosed
- Did not believe he had a drinking problem
- Paramedical exam results: elevated liver enzyme count
- This applicant has not seen a doctor in four years
- Outcome: Declined
You can see Samuel had the best outcome because it has been over ten years since he was treated. Receiving regular follow-up appointments with his doctor also helped. For Daniele, only two years have passed since she was diagnosed and treated, and although she had no other medical conditions and good follow up results, this gave her a slightly worse outcome. Don had the poorest outcome. He had an elevated liver enzyme count and was not working toward changing it. This along with his lack doctor visits resulted in the decline of his application.
What This All Means to You
The good news about applying for term life insurance when you suffer from alcohol addiction is — yes, you can qualify for coverage! The bad news is the approval, and rating class can be very unpredictable and subjective. However, if you follow the advice we’ve provided and, more importantly, discuss your situation with your life insurance agent or broker, you can have a positive outcome.
And remember, if you are not pleased with the offer you receive, you can always try with another company or put the policy in force and work on improving the rating class through better control and lab results.