Graphic illustration of a person balancing on an overturned wine bottle, to symbolize your life insurance policy and alcoholism
Insurance 101

Your life insurance policy and alcoholism—how is it affected?

Insurance 101

Your life insurance policy and alcoholism—how is it affected?

How this serious disease can affect your life insurance policy and application process.

Alcoholism often gets a lot of jokes in the media, but it’s a serious problem. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in 2019, 25.8% of respondents aged 18 and up said they engaged in binge drinking within the past month. (We wonder if they did the survey right after spring break? That’s gotta have *some* effect on the numbers.)

But in all seriousness, with alcohol being commonplace in US culture, we wanted to answer the question, “can an alcoholic get life insurance?” Because life insurance for alcoholics is an important topic to discuss. So let’s break it on down, Wysh-style.

  1. What is alcoholism
  2. Can an alcoholic get life insurance?
  3. Life insurance for recovering alcoholics

What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism or alcohol use disorder is defined by a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems with drinking…well, alcohol. Problems can include things like controlling how much you drink, being preoccupied with alcohol, or continuing to drink even when it causes stressors in your life. These are all indicators of alcoholism.

Symptoms of alcoholism can include:

  • Being unable to limit amount of alcohol you drink
  • Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use
  • Feeling a strong urge to drink
  • Failing to fulfill obligations due to alcohol use
  • Using alcohol in situations when it wouldn’t be safe to do so (i.e., driving)
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol, so you need to consume more to feel the effects of drinking
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

And the health problems that arise from excessive alcohol abuse can vary, but are no less dangerous. Short-term effects can include things like injuries, violence, or alcohol poisoning. Meanwhile long-term alcohol abuse can lead to things like high blood pressure, cancer, weakened immune system, and other mental health disorders.

With these health issues arising from alcoholism, it’s important to note how this disease can affect your options when trying to get a life insurance policy.

Can an alcoholic get life insurance?

While alcoholism is a terrible disease, life insurance companies want to minimize risk wherever possible. And as we noted above, being an alcoholic can come with severe health risks. So that means getting a life insurance policy, term or permanent, may be more difficult for alcoholics to obtain.

Why would this be? Well, the underwriting process is designed to take a more holistic view of your health and lifestyle to determine risk. You’ll be asked about various things like your job, age, family medical history, etc. You’ll also be asked about any substances you take, such as medications and, yes, alcohol. Depending on your answers, the company may or may not recognize the signs of alcoholism.

You may be asked questions like:

  • When was the last time you took a drink?
  • Have you ever received a DUI?
  • Are you undergoing any treatment for drug or alcohol abuse?
  • Have you been diagnosed with an alcohol-related health condition?
1 - last time you drank?  2 - any drug or alcohol treatment?  3 - any DUIs?  4 - any alcohol-related health diagnosis?

If you truthfully list your alcohol consumption at levels that may be considered excessive, you may not be accepted for a policy. That’s because the risk is too high for companies to take a chance on.

On the other hand, it may be tempting to lie about how much alcohol you consume. Don’t do this. Like, seriously, it’s not a good idea. Does life insurance cover alcohol poisoning? It won’t, if you’re not truthful about your level of alcohol consumption. Because if you lie about how much alcohol you drink and then die from alcohol-related health problems, the insurance company may not pay out the death benefits to your beneficiaries. Meaning, your loved ones won’t get a pay out, or may receive significantly less than they would expect.

Life insurance for recovering alcoholics

Let’s say you’re a recovering alcoholic, or full-blown sober—can you get a policy? Sure, depending on some factors. Remember, you may be asked during your application when you had your last drink. The amount of time being sober can have an effect on your class rating; shorter amounts of time might help a bit, but longer bouts of sobriety can help even more. Like, five years sobriety looks very good for an application as opposed to just a couple of years.

The opinions we expressed in this post are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations.