It’s not always easy to discuss mental illnesses, especially since many diagnoses are currently considered grey areas and for the most part, conditions like depression and anxiety are stigmatized and not very well understood. While the last thing someone wants to do is make a person more anxious or concerned, when it comes to life policies and health insurance, however, the insurer does, unfortunately, have to take mental illnesses, like anxiety, into consideration when quoting on monthly premiums and accepting applications.
We all have moments where we panic or feel nervous to the point where we can’t breathe. But for some of us, these feelings consume our days from the time we open our eyes in the morning to the point where we try to fall asleep at night, which often doesn’t come easily. Apart from constantly feeling anxious and overwhelmed, people who suffer from anxiety also tend to experience other side effects that come with the illness, like sleep deprivation, low immune systems which tend to lead to colds and cases of flu and eventually, even depression can sink in.
Life insurance companies research policies for individuals with anxiety all the time. This is because they need to ensure that they are covered for worst-case scenarios, while respecting the insured and trying to keep their premium as low as possible, with all due respect. But, as the person seeking cover, you might still be somewhat baffled and continue to ask the question “how and why does anxiety affect life and health insurance?”
To clarify some of your doubt and to help you answer your questions, we’re here to give you a few fair reasons why insurance companies include anxiety into the decision-making process. Let’s take a look at the following key points:
- The Date of Diagnosis
We all experience anxiety at different levels and intensities. Most of us experience the emotions fleetingly and during times of high stress. For others, however, feelings of anxiety and stress become apart of who they are and they simply cannot shake the overwhelming emotions and feelings of nervousness that are constantly at work.
If the latter is the case, then life insurance companies will want to know the date that you were diagnosed with anxiety and the duration to date. In essence, they want to know how well your anxiety is being managed and if it is being managed at all.
According to research collected by the National Institute of Mental Health, Mayo Clinic as well as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, only 42% of individuals who suffer from anxiety reported that they had received professional treatment within the last 12 months.
If anxiety is not treated or if help is not sought after, secondary illnesses like severe depression, stomach problems and other mental health illnesses could come into effect, making the possibilities of additional treatments a concern for insurers, since they will be liable to cover such costs for the insured.
- Treatment Type
Apart from the duration of possible treatment, the treatment type will also have an effect on life and health insurance policies. You will be asked if you are being counseled by a therapist and if so, how often. You will also have to mention any medication you are on to treat the anxiety and if the medication has been prescribed for short-term effects or if it is classified as chronic.
There are also other ways to reduce stress and anxiety that your insurer might take into consideration, although they might not be considered as professional treatments. Exercises such as Yoga, Tai Chi, and even running help to reduce anxiety or prevent the onset of the illness before it takes effect. Wellness coaching is also a more current practice that is gaining in popularity and is showing very positive outcomes in terms of long-term treatment.
When applying for health insurance or life cover, it is important that you be as detailed as possible in your forms, giving detailed descriptions of even the smallest changes you have made in your lifestyle to combat anxiety or to prevent it from occurring. The more you can show that you are working on reducing anxiety and that you have it under control, the lower a risk you are and the lower your premiums will be.
While medication is prescribed as a treatment plan and can eradicate or reduce the feelings of anxiety, many insurance companies are concerned with other underlying risks that come with taking medication, especially chronic medication. From antidepressants to muscle-relaxants and hormone inhibitors, each person reacts differently to a medicinal treatment course.
The type, the prescribed dosage, and how often you take anxiety medication is a strong determining factor when it comes to reviewing your application. This is because some medicines pose possible harmful side-effects that insurance carriers need to take into consideration. If you can prove that your medication is working well for you, this could reduce your insurances fees drastically. If, however, there’s evidence that you are receiving treatment for other side-effects or that your medication is simply not working, the opposite will happen in that your monthly premiums will be higher, because you are a greater risk to your carrier.
- Have You Been Hospitalized?
There’s no arguing that insurance companies need to know every snippet of your private life, but this is all for the best of both parties. Insurance carriers are interested in risk. If it comes up that you have previously been hospitalized for your anxiety, your insurer could possibly view the illness as not being well-controlled and this could negatively affect your application, especially if there is any indication that you might be hospitalized again.
In your insurance application forms there are very likely to be sections where the underwriters will ask you a few questions similar to the following:
- Have you previously been hospitalized for your anxiety?
- If you have been admitted to hospital, when did this occur?
- How many times have you been admitted to hospital for anxiety?
- What was the outcome after hospitalization?
- Is there a possibility that you could be hospitalized for anxiety in the near future?
How you answer these questions will determine the outcome of your health and life policy as well as what your premium and cover will be. When completing such forms, it is very important that you answer honestly at all times because if it can be proved that you purposefully gave incorrect information, your application could be rejected altogether.
- Has Anxiety Led to You Taking Days Off from Work?
Anxiety is difficult to cope with on one’s own, never mind in the confines of a workspace where the demands are high and social interaction is required, almost constantly. This brings many carriers to the question of “has your anxiety influenced you to take days off from work, and if so, how many”?
Many who suffer from anxiety agree that they struggle to cope at work and often report battling with the following:
- Difficulty establishing good relationships with co-workers
- Battling with output demands
- Poor productivity issues
- Not going to work at all
Your underwriter will take leave due to anxiety into consideration and for the most part, missing work, especially many days in a row, is a possible indication that your anxiety is more severe and that your health and life is more at risk.
What Does This Mean If You Do Suffer from Anxiety?
Underwriters usually categorise anxiety into three levels when putting a policy into place. These categories include: mild, moderate, or severe anxiety. Depending on your level of diagnosis, this will determine the status of your application and the proceedings to follow.
Mild anxiety: If your condition is considered mild, well controlled and no more than one medication has been prescribed, then you will likely be eligible to receive preferred best/preferred plus premium rates.
Moderate anxiety: If your anxiety is deemed moderate, is well under control and you are being treated by a therapist with no more than one prescribed medication, you are likely to qualify for Standard to Rated life insurance.
Severe anxiety: If your anxiety has been diagnosed as severe, you will possibly be charged higher premiums, and you may even have to consider a guaranteed issue policy (which means that you do not have to do a medical exam or answer health questions). This means that rates will be on the higher side.
Not all life insurance carriers have the same opinions on anxiety and its influences, however. The best advice would be to approach an independent life insurance agent who is well-versed in his or her field and can help clients who do suffer from anxiety to find an excellent life or health insurance option that delivers a quality service while keeping to a competitive price. For the most part, independent agents are not accountable to only one carrier and will instead have your best interest at heart. Ask your agent to give you multiple quotes from a variety of carriers so that they can find the best policy for you.