Life insurance and mental health

Mental illness is something that many people experience. We take a look at your options for life insurance if you have a mental health condition or have had one in the past.

Mental illness is something that many people experience. We take a look at your options for life insurance if you have a mental health condition or have had one in the past.

Kara Gammell
Finances expert
minute read
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Last Updated 18 MAY 2022

What is a mental health condition?

A mental health condition is an illness that affects your psychological wellbeing – often through a disorder that can change your mood and behaviour. Mental health conditions include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Can I get life insurance if I have a mental health condition?

Most people who’ve experienced mental health conditions can still get life insurance. When it comes to poor mental health, no one should have to suffer in silence. It can be tempting to keep quiet when applying for life insurance because of the threat of increased premiums. But this could be a costly mistake. If you withhold information – whether intentionally or not – you could end up with a policy that doesn’t pay out.

It’s always best to be open and honest about any medical conditions you have, no matter how small. If you don’t declare some medical information, you could find yourself living under a false sense of security, meaning you’re unprotected. As insurance is priced based on the likelihood of claims, providers are within their rights to invalidate a policy if they discover false information was provided, either on purpose or by omission.

If you’ve had a serious mental health condition for a long time, you could still find cover, but you might need to find a specialist provider.

What information will I need to give to an insurance provider 

Key details you’ll be asked to give to an insurance provider may include: 

  • Your, and your family’s, medical history (including previous and existing conditions) 
  • Medication taken during the past five years 
  • Height and weight 
  • Your GP’s name and practice address 
  • Lifestyle and behaviors 
  • Financial information (for example, your salary) 

Applying for life insurance is increasingly accessible, with many providers accepting online applications. 

What does a life insurance provider need to know about mental health conditions? 

When it comes to mental health conditions, a provider typically needs to know: 

  • When you were diagnosed 
  • The severity of your symptoms 
  • How regularly you experience these symptoms 
  • How your illness affects your everyday life (for example, a provider might want to know of any absences from work due to your mental health) 
  • Whether or not you take medication for your illness and, if so, how long you’ve taken it. 

Could life insurance cost more if I have a mental health condition?

It could cost more to get life insurance if you have a mental health condition, depending on how severe your symptoms are or have been in the past. A provider assesses risk based on how likely you are to make a claim. For example, if you’ve recently been hospitalised because of your mental health you might be offered a more expensive premium than someone who’s suffered a less serious condition many years ago.

While the financial benefits are usually the main reason people choose to protect their salary, life insurance products frequently come with a wide range of added-value support. This usually comes as part of the policy, doesn’t cost anything extra and starts from the day the cover begins. If you have an existing life insurance policy and you start to struggle with your mental health, counselling services could be available from your provider – so it’s worth asking.

Is a mental health condition considered a pre-existing medical condition?

Any injury or illness, including a mental health condition, that exists before or at the time you take out a life insurance policy is considered a pre-existing medical condition. It’s really important that you inform an insurance provider of any injury or illness when you apply for life insurance. If you don’t, you could invalidate your policy and a provider could refuse to pay out when you make a claim.  

Where can I get more help on life insurance?

If you’d like to get more information on life cover and how it relates to mental health conditions, you can talk to an insurance expert. The friendly advisers at LifeSearch are available to chat on 0800 072 1147.
Lines are open Monday to Friday: 8am-8pm
Saturday: 9am-2pm
Sunday: 10am-3.30pm

Alternatively, it’s easy to compare your life insurance options with Compare the Market.

Frequently asked questions

Why is it more difficult to get life insurance with a mental health condition?

It can be more difficult to get suitable cover if you have a mental health condition because you may be considered a ‘high risk’ customer. This means there’s a higher probability of insurance providers having to pay out on a claim. 

Unfortunately, this means you’ll most likely pay a higher premium or be refused cover altogether.

What other challenges might mental health customers face when looking for life insurance?

If you have a mental health condition, your options could be limited and you may need to search harder to find an insurance provider who’ll cover you. Eligibility criteria can vary among providers, but mental health customers may often face the following challenges: 

  • You may be asked a very generic question, as in, ‘have you ever had a mental health problem?’ without being given the opportunity to explain your condition in more detail.
  • You may still be considered a ‘high risk’ customer, even if you had mental health issues in the past and are now fully recovered. 
  • Insurance providers may refuse your application without offering a proper explanation.
  • You may have to pay more for your premium if you’re ‘unemployed’ and unable to work because of your mental health condition.

Do I have to tell my insurance provider I have a mental health condition?

Although it may be tempting to keep quiet about any mental health issues, especially if you’re fully recovered, honesty is always the best policy. If you don’t answer questions about mental health truthfully, and your insurance provider finds out, it could have serious consequences. For example: 

  • It could invalidate your policy – your insurance provider may refuse to pay out on a claim, even if the circumstances of your death had nothing to do with your mental health condition.
  • Your policy might be cancelled – you won’t receive a refund for your past premiums and you may find it difficult to get other types of insurance in the future.
  • You could be charged a lump-sum penalty fee – which could be the difference between the rate you were paying and the rate you should have been charged had your insurance provider known about your condition.
  • You could face criminal prosecution for fraud under the Fraud Act 2006.
  • If a claim is paid, your insurance provider could take out legal proceedings against your beneficiaries to recover the amount they paid out.

What should I do if I believe I’ve been treated unfairly?

While an insurance provider can refuse to cover you or charge you more for cover, they must do so within the law. This means their decision must be considered reasonable and be based on relevant and reliable information – for example, medical reports and statistical data regarding risk or life expectancy. 

Their decision could be considered unlawful discrimination if: 

  • They justify their decision based on generalisations and assumptions about mental health, rather than assessing your specific diagnosis.
  • They charge you an exorbitant amount in relation to the actual risks your mental health condition presents.
  • They don’t give you a satisfactory explanation as to why they have refused you cover or are charging you a higher premium.  

If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly because of your mental health condition, you can put in a formal complaint with your insurance provider. If you’re unhappy with their explanation or how they’ve dealt with your complaint, you can take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). If they find your case is valid, you may be offered an official apology and/or compensation by the insurance company.

If you want to take legal action against an insurance company, Citizens Advice can offer helpful advice on what to do next. 

Just be aware that you’ll need to put in any complaint or claim within six months of being refused insurance cover or being quoted an unreasonably high premium.

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