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

Is there life insurance for alcoholics and those on the road to recovery?

Insurance 101

Is there life insurance for alcoholics and those on the road to recovery?

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

While alcoholism is often portrayed lightly in media, its impact on various aspects of life, including life insurance policies and application processes, can be a profound. According to the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 21.7% of Americans aged 12 and older reported engaging in binge drinking in the past month.1 This statistic involves 61.2 million people and underscores the challenges of alcoholism in our society​​.

But let's get serious. Alcohol, a staple in US culture, brings up important questions: is life insurance for alcoholics a thing? What about recovering alcoholics—are your chances any better? It's a crucial discussion in the world of alcoholism. So, let’s find out how likely alcoholics are to be denied and what life insurance options look like for recovering alcoholics. 

Main points

Varies by individual case: Life insurance eligibility and conditions for individuals with a history of alcoholism depend on specific factors like duration of sobriety, health status, and the insurer's policies.

Honesty is key: Always be truthful about alcohol consumption when applying for life insurance to avoid policy issues or denial.

Life insurance in recovery: Longer sobriety periods can improve life insurance terms. Being in recovery programs can reflect a commitment to a healthier lifestyle and financial foresight which can increase your chances of policy approval.

Impact of alcohol-related diseases: Diseases like cirrhosis, influenced by alcohol abuse, affect life insurance eligibility and premiums. Some insurers offer unique coverage despite high risks, but expect detailed assessments and possibly higher premiums.

Life insurance alternatives: Consider options like accidental death insurance for those with a history of alcoholism.

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  1. What is alcoholism
  2. Can an alcoholic get life insurance?
  3. Life insurance for recovering alcoholics
  4. Being aware of the different alcohol-related diseases 
  5. Will life insurance payout for cirrhosis or other alcohol-related diseases?
  6. Life insurance alternatives for alcoholism

What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is a condition marked by an uncontrollable urge to consume alcohol despite its negative effects on one's life. Symptoms of alcoholism can range from being unable to limit alcohol consumption to developing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking. The health implications are wide-ranging, from short-term risks like injuries and violence to long-term threats such as heart disease and mental health disorders.

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?

Navigating the world of life insurance while battling alcoholism can be tricky. Insurance companies are in the business of risk management, and alcohol does come with its set of health risks. The underwriting process is where all of these factors will be assessed—it's an in-depth review of your health and lifestyle, including your alcohol consumption habits.

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.

Questions during the underwriting process may include:

  • When was the last time you took a drink?
  • Have you received treatment for drug or alcohol abuse?
  • Do you have any DUIs on record?
  • 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. However, honesty is essential here. While it might be tempting to understate your alcohol consumption, remember that life insurance policies hinge on the truthfulness of your disclosures.

Full disclosure of your diagnosis is a must to avoid future headaches like claim denials or policy cancellations. Plus, there are insurers out there who specialize in high-risk cases, offering policies tailored to your unique situation. These policies may start with limited coverage but grow over time, providing a growing sense of security. 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 may not even reap the benefits of your policy or may receive significantly less than they were expecting.

Life insurance for recovering alcoholics

Recovery is a journey, and when it comes down to getting life insurance, it's a journey that counts. The length of your sobriety can significantly influence your policy eligibility and terms. For instance, a five-year sobriety period may look more favorable than just a couple of years. A sustained period of sobriety, notably beyond five years, is often viewed more positively, reflecting a commitment to long-term health and responsibility. Recovery programs can also significantly help enhance one's eligibility, presenting a solid case for insurers.

Being aware of the different alcohol-related diseases 

As we mentioned, another problem closely related to alcohol are alcohol-related diseases, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis. Medical lesson of the day: cirrhosis is a severe liver condition resulting from long-term damage where healthy liver cells are replaced by scar tissue. This scarring weakens liver function and can be caused by factors like excessive alcohol consumption, viral hepatitis, or fatty liver disease from obesity or diabetes​​. 

Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of cirrhosis. Chronic and excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to progressive liver damage, eventually leading to this unfortunate liver condition. About 10-20% of heavy drinkers can develop cirrhosi, and nearly 35% for (alcohol-related) hepatitis.2  

Alcohol-related liver diseases:

(Alcohol-related) cirrhosis: This happens when the liver becomes badly scarred and is a condition that often leads to liver failure. Sadly, once this stage is reached, the damage is usually irreversible. 

(Alcohol-related) steatohepatitis (ASH): Where fat starts to build up in liver cells—as a result of heavy drinking. While this stage often flies under the radar without symptoms, some might experience a slight discomfort or pain in the abdomen. 

(Alcohol-related) hepatitis: This is more serious and involves inflammation and damage to liver cells, leading to scarring (fibrosis). Watch for signs like fever, yellowing skin, nausea, and abdominal pain. 

The good news is that stepping away from alcohol could be your ticket to turning things around, but only in some cases. Sometimes, a break from the booze is all your liver needs to start healing.

Will life insurance payout for cirrhosis or other alcohol-related diseases?

Insurers often view cirrhosis and similar alcohol-related diseases as high-risk factors due to the increased likelihood of liver failure and other complications. This can lead to outright denial of coverage. Nevertheless, insurers willing to consider such cases may dive deep into the details as an extra precaution. They'll assess everything from the severity and its underlying causes (yes, including alcohol abuse) to your overall health, treatment history, and liver function tests. It’s all about sizing up the risk and setting the policy terms just right.

You can often expect higher premiums if you suffer from any of these diseases. It's a balancing act for insurers, given the added risks. But don't lose hope—there are still options. Just remember, the specifics will vary based on the severity and each insurer’s rules. 

Life insurance alternatives for alcoholism

There are viable alternatives for individuals facing hurdles in getting traditional life insurance. Accidental death and dismemberment insurance or simplified issue life insurance can offer vital coverage with different terms. Each insurer has its criteria and approach towards applicants with a history of alcoholism. Understanding this can help tailor your application for a higher chance of acceptance.

Incorporating life insurance into a comprehensive financial plan is a wise step for those in recovery. It symbolizes a dedication not only to financial foresight but also to a healthier, alcohol-free lifestyle. This process, while challenging, paves the way for opportunities in personal and financial growth, marking a significant stride towards resilience and an improved quality of life.

1-National Survey on Drug Use and Health: 2022." Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 2023.

2-University of Michigan Health. (2023). Alcohol Related Liver Disease. University of Michigan. Retrieved January 13, 2024, from 

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