Factors That Affect Life Insurance Premiums

(What age, Adam and Eve, and smoking have to do with it)

Written by Christina Palermo
Written by Christina Palermo

Christina is a freelance writer and licensed insurance agent. She has worked in many facets of the insurance industry, from entry-level assistant to account manager/sales rep to vice president of operations.

factors that affect life insurance premiums

Life insurance premiums are always unique to the individual applying for coverage. That means even if twin sisters apply for the same life insurance plan, they will each receive different quotes. 

Sure the twins are the same sex, same age, same weight, and may even have very similar health histories. However, they are still individuals and each will be evaluated based on their own life insurance risk factors. 

Life insurance premiums are generally based on three factors — age, gender, and physical condition. That last category is one of the life insurance factors that can vary a lot (and widely affect) life insurance pricing. 

For example, tobacco use falls under the physical condition factor. You may be surprised to learn that a smoker can pay as much as THREE TIMES the amount of their non-smoking peers.  

Let’s take a peek at life insurance factors that affect premiums.

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Age Isn't Just a Number 

In terms of having fun, age really is just a number. However, when it comes to life insurance premiums, you’ll find it’s actually the most significant cost factor for life insurance. The reason why is pretty simple: the younger you are, the less likely (statistically speaking) you are to die. Lower risk equals lower premiums. 

Adam vs. Eve

Gender is one of the biggest life insurance pricing factors. Why? Well, the average age expectancy of a US female is 81 years versus 76 years for a US male. 

This simple difference of five years means an insurance carrier is more likely to pay a male death claim sooner (rather than later). It also means the female applicant will usually get a lower premium based strictly on gender. 

Physical Health 

This category is made up of six individual cost factors for your life insurance. The severity of each item listed below will affect your life insurance premiums by 100%. 

Weight: A recent study showed that weighing a third more than your ideal weight might knock three years off your lifespan. Life insurance companies have known this for years. That’s why the higher your BMI then the larger your monthly life insurance costs. 

Current Health: Life insurance applications require you to answer questions about your current state of health, as well as (in some cases) submit medical records. 

Insurance companies want to know if you are being treated for any medical conditions that could increase your chance of death. Even chronic health issues that are under control via prescription medication are still a life insurance pricing factor. 

Health History: Insurance carriers will also review your past hospitalizations, surgeries, and diagnostic tests for a hint of any major health concerns. It’s another way for the life insurance company to determine if you are a higher risk of serious illness. 

Smoking: It should be no big surprise that using tobacco is perhaps the biggest factor that affects life insurance premiums. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the overall mortality rate for US smokers is about three times higher than their non-smoker counterparts. 

Bottom line: Life expectancy for smokers is a minimum of 10 years shorter than for nonsmokers. Keep in mind, if you buy a life insurance plan today and eventually do quit smoking, then you may qualify for a premium reduction. It’s best to work with your independent life insurance agent for help in navigating this type of re-evaluation. 

Drinking and Drug Use: The amount of alcohol you consume will be questioned by the insurance carrier. Basically the company wants to know if your drinking falls within the “low risk” drinking guidelines established by the National Institutes of Health. The life insurer will also explore your drug use (or lack thereof) to figure out if you are clean and sober. 

Family Medical History: Many medical conditions are hereditary like certain cancers and neurological disorders, so a family history of such ailments could mean high insurance costs. 


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Lifestyle Choices

In all honestly, the manner in which you live your life can increase your risk of death and your premium. If you participate in high-risk sports or a dangerous job, then you’ll probably pay more for life insurance.   

Occupation: If your work consists of dangerous job duties or exposes you to toxic chemicals, then you may be at a higher risk for death. That’s why police officers and firefighters pay more for life insurance than school teachers or pastors.  

Marital Status: This factor doesn’t necessarily affect your life insurance premiums, but purchasing a joint policy with your spouse could get you a discount. 

Hobbies: Treacherous activities like skydiving, mountain climbing, or piloting a plane increase your high-risk profile. As you’ve learned by now, a high-risk interest will typically result in higher premiums than it will for your homebody neighbor. 

Driving Record: Multiple moving violations, higher risk auto accidents, and suspensions are also factors that affect your life insurance premiums. That includes past suspensions and DUI/DWI charges. 

Foreign Travel: Certain countries are considered significantly more dangerous for tourists than other nations. So if you travel on a regular basis to one of those risky regions, be aware your life insurance premiums may be affected as a result. 

The Policy Matters Too

The type of life insurance policy and the benefit amount are two additional life insurance factors that will affect your premium. In a nutshell, the longer your term or the larger the amount, then the larger your premium payment will be each month. 

Talking with an independent life insurance agent will give you plenty of options and better explain the possible outcomes. 


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Don’t Try to Memorize the Factors 

We’re so proud of you for doing the research on what factors impact the cost of life insurance. Knowledge is power, you know. 

In reality, we also know you’re pretty darn busy with work and family. So who has time to memorize the factors and navigate life insurance applications on their own? Not you! 

Instead of going it alone, contact one of our independent life insurance agents for assistance. We guarantee they are professionals who understand life insurance cost pricing factors and can help you find the best option. 

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