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How Depression Can Increase Life Insurance Premiums

I Have Depression. Now What?

Depression is a concern to life insurance companies because it increases your chances of death, either via the possibility of suicide, destructive self-medication using drugs and/or alcohol, the increased chance of serious accidents, or even via harmful side effects from treatments like lithium. If you have depression the life underwriter will want to know what type of depression you were diagnosed with, when your episode(s) occurred, and whether the depression was successfully treated. One of the most important things the underwriter will want to know is whether your doctors has or had any serious concerns that you would actually commit suicide. In most cases, patients may share thoughts of suicide with their doctors, but have no real intention of acting on those thoughts. Often a doctor is able to perceive which individuals are not serious, and will note this in that person's medical history. This kind of documentation is very helpful to the life insurance company. As with most diseases and medical conditions, please allow plenty of time for the life insurance company to review your application. You should also be prepared to pay higher than normal rates. 

Depression's Effect on Insurance Rates

Below is a table with expected ratings for different levels of depression. Do note that poor lifestyle habits like chronic substance abuse, self-medication using illegal drugs, and alcoholism are always problematic to life insurance, but particularly problematic in conjunction with depression. 


Expected Rating

Mild/situational depression, such as grief-related; lasts a few months

Standard immediately; Preferred once depression has passed

Bipolar Disorder (a.k.a. Manic Depression) successfully treated

Standard through Table 4

Moderate depression; last more than four months

Standard may be available after one year; Table 2 through Table 4 immediately; flat extra of $3 per $1000 for 2 to 3 years

Deeper depression; repeat bouts of moderate depression; under professional treatment

One year postponement following last episode; Standard through Table 4 after postponement, depending on evaluations

Severe depression; Bipolar Disorder

Possibly Decline or Postponed; if treatment is successful, Standard through Table 6

Self-medication using illegal drugs, alcoholism, chronic substance abuse in conjunction with depression


Hospitalized because doctor was worried about suicide; suicide attempt

One to two year Postponementfor one year following release; then possible Standard through Table 6

More Information on Depression

Simply put, depression is a number of possible emotional disorders. It is very common and there are many treatment options including drug therapy, counseling, hospitalization (if suicide is a concern) and in very extreme cases, electric shock therapy. 

Depression can have environmental origins, organic origins, or a combination of the two. Environmental origins are things like family situations, job stress, financial issues, and even things like dreary, dark winters. Organic origins are imbalances of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Environmental-related depression can often be treated with counseling whereas organic-related depression usually requires drug therapy. 

Important Things to Know for Those with Depression

What are some of the issues that interest underwriters?

  • What type of depression do you have?

  • When was your first episode of depression and when was your most recent?

  • How have you treated your depression?

  • Has treatment been successful?

  • Where there any harmful side effects from treatment?

  • Have you ever been hospitalized due to depression? If so, why?

  • What are your lifestyle habits?

  • Have you every attempted suicide? 

What can I do to help the underwriting process?

It will be vital that the life insurance company be able to review all your medical records and history. Therefore you need to include contact information for all the doctors and medical facilities that have helped treat you. Also, it is important that you include a cover letter explaining your situation, your lifestyle adjustments, how therapy has impacted you, and anything else you feel is relevant.

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