PharmacoEconomics

, Volume 5, Supplement 1, pp 62–65 | Cite as

Obesity and Insurance Risk

The Insurance Industry’s Viewpoint
  • Ian McLean Baird
Section 5

Summary

Obesity is regarded by insurance companies as a substantial risk for both life and disability policies. This risk increases proportionally with the degree of obesity. Mortality statistics for life insurance were the earliest indicator that the cost of obesity to the individual was a decreased life span and increased illness, particularly that affecting the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems.

The prevalence of coronary heart disease rises with increases in the body mass index in both men and women. Cigarette smoking greatly augments these risks in both sexes. Hypertension and diabetes are very common in obese persons and add further to the risks of vascular disease. Abdominal obesity (when the abdominal girth measured round the umbilicus exceeds the maximum measurement round the hips) is correlated with the risk of cardiac disease and stroke, independently of bodyweight. Insurance companies consider abdominal obesity as unfavourable and rate it accordingly.

Obesity (even that of moderate degree) greatly increases the chances of disability due to cardiovascular disease or musculoskeletal illness. In one study of 51 522 adult Finns, 25% of disability pensions in women were found to result directly from obesity.

Obesity causes increased health expenditure, decreased life span and productivity, and premature retirement. Insurance companies are compelled to build these risks into their policies. However, because the excess mortality occurs late in mild to moderate obesity, some companies may minimise this risk for life policies that mature early.

Keywords

Body Mass Index Obesity Abdominal Obesity Disability Pension Life Insurance 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Andres R, Elahi D, Tobin JD, Muller DC, Brant L. Impact of age on weight goals. Annals of Internal Medicine 103: 1030–1033, 1985Google Scholar
  2. Blood Pressure Study 1979. New York: Society of Actuaries/Association of Life Insurance Medical Directors of America, 1980Google Scholar
  3. Brackenridge RDC, Baird IMcL. Build. In Brackenridge & Elder (Eds) Medical selection of life risks, 3rd ed., pp. 212–216, Stockton Press, New York and MacMillan Publishers, Basingstoke, 1992Google Scholar
  4. Build and Blood Pressure Study 1959. Society of Actuaries, Chicago, 1959Google Scholar
  5. Build Study 1979. Society of Actuaries/Association of Life Insurance Medical Directors of America, New York, 1980Google Scholar
  6. Dawber TR. The Framingham study. The epidemiology of arteriosclerotic disease. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1980Google Scholar
  7. Diet and Health. National Academy of Sciences Press, Washington DC: National Academy of Sciences Press, 1991Google Scholar
  8. Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults by the Office for Population Census and Surveys. HMSO, London, 1980Google Scholar
  9. Doll R, Hill AB. Mortality in relation to smoking: ten years observation of British doctors. Concluded. British Medical Journal 1: 1460, 1964PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fitzgerald AP, Jarrett RJ. Body weight and coronary heart disease mortality: an analysis in relation to age and smoking habit. International Journal of Obesity 16: 119–123, 1992PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Health of the Nation. HMSO, London, 1992Google Scholar
  12. Kannel WB, McGee DL. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The Framingham study. Journal of the American Medical Association 241: 2035–2038, 1979PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kjelsberg MO. Mortality after 10.5 years for hypertensive participants in the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial. Circulation 82: 1616–1628, 1990CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kemsley WFF, Billewicz WZ, Thomson AM. A new weight for height standard based on British anthropometric data. British Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine 16: 189–195, 1962PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Larsson B. Regional obesity as a health hazard in men: prospective studies. Acta Medica Scandinavica (Suppl. 723): 45–52, 1988PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Lew EA. Relative mortality of insured lives. Transactions of the Association of Life Insurance Medical Directors of America 64: 123, 1980PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Lew EA, Garfinkel L. Variation in mortality by weight among 750,000 men and women. Journal of Chronic Diseases 32: 563–576, 1987CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Manson JAE, Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ, et al. A prospective study of obesity and risk of coronary heart disease in women. New England Journal of Medicine 322: 882–889, 1990PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. McKeigue PM, Shah B, Marmot MG. Relation of central obesity and insulin resistance with high diabetes prevalence and cardiovascular risk in South Asians. Lancet 337: 382–386, 1991PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Statistical Bulletin, New York, Jan–June 2–9, 1983Google Scholar
  21. National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Panel. Health implications of obesity, National Institutes of Health Development Conference Statement. Annals of Internal Medicine 103: 1073–1077, 1985Google Scholar
  22. Rissanen A, Heliovaara M, Knekt P, et al. Risk of disability and mortality due to overweight in a Finnish population. British Medical Journal 301: 835–837, 1990PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Specialised Mortality Investigation. Actuarial Society of America, 1903Google Scholar
  24. Stewart AL, Brook RH. Effects of being overweight. American Journal of Public Health 7: 171–178, 1983CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, 1979Google Scholar
  26. Vanltallie TB, Lew EA. Overweight and underweight. In Lew EA & Gajewski J (Eds) Medical risks: trends in mortality by age and time elapsed, Praeger Press, New York, 1990Google Scholar
  27. Vogt MT, et al. Prevalence and correlates of lower extremity arterial disease in elderly women. American Journal of Epidemiology 137: 559–568, 1993PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Wadden TA, Stunkard AJ. Social and psychological consequences of obesity. Annals of Internal Medicine 103: 1062–1067, 1985PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian McLean Baird
    • 1
  1. 1.West Middlesex HospitalIsleworthEngland

Personalised recommendations