If you’re wondering about this question, you already realize that policyholders who are alcoholics present higher risks for insurance companies. However, the short answer is yes—an alcoholic can get life insurance, though at higher rates. Even so, the pros of protecting your family and loved ones outweigh the cons.
At Alliance Income, we consider your circumstances and provide the insurance products that would best fit your needs. Read on as we explain what you can expect during the process of shopping for life insurance as an alcoholic. Before we delve into the details of life insurance for alcoholics, let’s first understand exactly what alcoholism is and how it affects the body. The different issues it can cause in different parts of the body, is precisely why insurance companies consider alcoholics to be such high risk individuals.
In this article
How Does Canada Define Alcoholism?
A distinct difference exists between alcoholism (Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD) and occasional heavy drinking. Both pertain to different methods of potential alcohol abuse, but one is chronic while the other can cease at any time.
Canada defines heavy drinkers as those consuming four to five drinks in one day each month within the past year. Heavy drinkers, while presenting a potential threat during their drunkenness, are not automatically alcoholics. They can cease drinking for extended periods and typically don’t experience symptoms common for those with AUD.
Specifics About Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
Alcohol Use Disorder is a medical condition defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Those with Alcohol Use Disorder must meet certain diagnostic criteria, including:
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short time or for a longer period than intended
- Attempting and failing to control their alcohol use
- Spending large amounts of time trying to obtain or use alcohol or to recover from the effects of alcohol
- Having a strong desire or craving to drink alcohol
- Having such recurrent alcohol use that it interferes with daily life obligations
- Continuing alcohol use despite persistent or constant social issues caused by its effects
- Neglecting important social activities in favour of alcohol use
- Using alcohol in places or situations that can physically endanger themselves or others
- Continuing alcohol use despite knowledge of the issues the use causes
- Gaining an increased tolerance for alcohol
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, including but not limited to:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Transient sensory hallucinations or illusions
- Using alcohol or related substances to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms
You must exhibit two or more of the symptoms listed to receive an AUD diagnosis. Experiencing two to three symptoms denotes a mild case, with four to five indicating moderate AUD. Six or more symptoms indicate severe Alcohol Use Disorder.
People previously diagnosed with AUD are in early remission when, after treatment, they have abstained from alcohol for 3-12 months. Medical providers consider more than 12 months without use as sustained remission.
Some people can meet AUD diagnostic requirements without ever receiving a diagnosis. For this reason, the insurance company takes any alcohol use and related habits into account.
How Differences Between Heavy Drinking and AUD Affect You
Alcohol use is exceptionally common in Canada. In 2017, about 78% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported alcohol use, with roughly 22% categorized as heavy drinkers. Because of this, insurers pay special attention to the distinction between occasional drinking and the potential for AUD.
During the underwriting process, in which the insurance company evaluates your death risk, they typically include a health examination. Those who drink more tend to have a greater likeliness for short- and long-term medical conditions related to alcohol use. People who use alcohol often and consistently, such as those with a history of alcoholism, are increasingly at risk.
While alcohol use can lead to further medical issues with sustained heavy drinking, occasional drinks may not. Also, those who drink heavily are not automatically alcoholics or someone with AUD. As such, the occasional heavy drinker may not receive higher premiums if their health is otherwise in good shape.
However, being an alcoholic increases your potential death risk, meaning that the insurance company may need to pay out your policy sooner. To mitigate risks, people meeting AUD criteria often pay higher amounts for the same life insurance coverage a non-alcoholic receives. They also tend to not qualify for traditional whole or term life policies.
Instead, many companies offer guaranteed policies with much higher premiums than traditional ones. Those who are in early or sustained remission may see better rates.
Yes, You Can Secure a Life Insurance Policy as an Alcoholic.
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How Other Ailments Related to Alcohol Abuse Can Impact Life Insurance
Alcohol abuse contributes to high rates, but that is not the only aspect of alcoholism that the underwriting process reviews. Companies also consider the possible results of alcohol use, including any comorbid health issues or living conditions.
Whether or not you are an alcoholic, the underwriting process generally reviews your whole health. Drinking alcohol consistently and in high amounts often contributes to other health issues that the wellness review picks up. Some common health problems associated with AUD include:
- Brain damage
- Fatty liver
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- High blood pressure
Medical notes revealing the existence of these health issues can increase your potential monthly premiums.
Other Lifestyle Decisions
While insurance advisors ask lifestyle questions to all applicants, they may ask specific ones of alcoholics. Their line of questioning helps them determine how much alcohol use is affecting the applicant’s life, such as:
- If you do not currently drink, when was the last time you consumed alcohol?
- Have you ever received counseling for alcohol abuse?
- Have you been involved in a DUI because of your drinking habits?
- Do you participate in alcohol use support groups?
- Have you tried any treatment for your alcohol use?
- Are you able to hold a steady job?
When answering these questions, keep in mind that they will also do a background check. If you lie during the questioning, that will give the insurance company grounds to deny coverage. To get the best possible rates, it is best to be honest.
Does Being in Remission Help My Application?
If you’re in remission, congratulations for making a better choice for your overall health. Thankfully, taking steps to reduce your death risk can lower your insurance costs in the future. How the company will consider your current status will depend on how long you’ve been in remission.
Current estimates state that 40 to 60% of those in remission experience a relapse. However, the longer the person is in remission, the less likely they are to relapse into alcohol use.
Insurance companies follow careful procedures to ensure that statistical death risk has decreased, so they may not lower costs for you immediately. Continuing with your success can help lower premium costs in the future. You may also qualify for new insurance that follows more traditional prices.
Will Waiting to Apply Help Lower Costs?
We do not suggest waiting before getting life insurance coverage. If something happens to you during your wait, your family and loved ones will not have the protection they need. Consider the overall reasons why life insurance is extremely important for those who matter the most to you.
Instead of waiting until you have been sober longer, you can get a temporary policy for the time being. It may not contain the coverage amount you wanted, but some coverage is better than none. Then, after a few more years sober or in remission, you can reapply and receive lowered rates for more insurance.
While not waiting may not lower costs for you, it could decrease expenses for the people in your life. Without life insurance, your loved ones could end up footing the bill for any expenses after you’re gone. However, if you have some insurance, that will help alleviate some of the costs.
What Type of Insurance Helps Reduce Costs?
Because an alcoholic can get life insurance, we highly advise finding a policy that fits at least some of your needs. If you have not been sober or in remission for long, you can still find insurance policies that cover the basics. Here are a few notes to consider as you search for possible insurers.
Guaranteed, Whole, or Term Insurance?
Currently, at least ten life insurance policy types exist in the Canadian market. As an alcoholic or someone with AUD, you may not get access to the more intensive insurance policies. Most insurers will present guaranteed, whole, or term insurance policies.
If given the option between these three policy types, term life insurance often carries the overall lowest rates. Unlike whole or guaranteed insurance, term policies only cover you for a certain period of years. This process means you can choose not to renew your policy at the end of the term.
The lower rates of a term life policy and the time limit allow you to plan for the future. A term policy also gives in-remission applicants the chance to cover major life expenses while waiting to be sober longer. Some use a term policy to cover future school costs, house purchases, or medical expenses.
Also, many insurance companies can convert term policies into whole-life policies without additional underwriting. A future relapse will not likely cause a problem with current conversions.
When Is Whole Life Okay?
For those looking to leave behind an inheritance, a whole-life policy, while more expensive, may provide coverage. Whole life insurance aims to cover the policyholder for the entirety of their life. As such, the policy amounts tend to increase along with the premiums, even for non-alcoholics.
Guaranteed life insurance policies are a type of whole life insurance. A guaranteed policy should cover the policyholder for life. However, it skips some of the underwriting processes, meaning the company takes on greater risks.
Because of the greater risk, guaranteed life insurance policies have higher premiums for lower death benefits than term or whole life. If given the chance to choose either term or whole policies instead of guaranteed, we suggest going with them. They typically include better options.
Some companies only offer alcoholics or people with AUD guaranteed life insurance. In such cases, you may want to work with another insurance company or compare rates with another company.
Consider the Coverage Amount
When deciding which policy to choose, consider the coverage amount and what you want covered. Many people purchase life insurance to cover serious expenses, including:
- Current salary amounts
- Financial obligations, like child support or familial medical expenses
- Financial debts, including mortgages, loans, or credit cards
- Future schooling expenses for children
Having alcoholic tendencies or living with AUD will increase the premiums necessary to cover these expenses. As such, you may need to pinpoint smaller amounts to cover and apply with that amount in mind. You can also create an improvement plan to increase coverage the longer you are sober or in remission.
Learn More About How Life Insurance Works for Those With Pre-Existing Conditions.
Read more about it here.
Applying for Life Insurance for Alcoholics in Canada
Now that you know an alcoholic can get life insurance, you can start applying through our website and ultimately become connected with an expert at Alliance Income. We know you have questions, and we are here to help. We have assisted Canadians with insurance applications for over 20 years, improving in-person and online interactions. We’ll help you through the application process and find the best policies to meet your unique needs.
Complete our free quote form to begin the process of securing life insurance for an alcoholic. We look forward to working with you.