How Does Alcoholism Affect Life Insurance?

June 29, 2010

If you’ve ever applied for life insurance, you know that the health questionnaire asks about whether or not you drink alcohol, and if so, how often. While some of you may be concerned that admitting to the occasional beer or cocktail will change your coverage eligibility, this is not the case.

It is only when alcohol use is excessive that it has any impact on the way life insurance policies are underwritten.

Actual alcoholism may or may not cause a life insurer to deny coverage, in much the same way as any other pre-existing condition. (Life insurers are still allowed to exclude applicants. It is only health insurance that has been reformed.) In fact, more and more insurance companies recognize that alcoholism stems, at least in part, from genetics, as do other diseases.

What aspects of alcoholism affect life insurance underwriting? According to Prudential Life Insurance, there are several significant complications that arise from excessive drinking. They are:

* Cardiac: Atrial fibrillation, cardiomyopathy, hypertension
* Nervous System: Blackouts, seizures, delirium tremens (DTs), peripheral neuropathy, tremors, brain damage, psychosis, balance and gait impairments.
* Gastrointestinal: Fatty liver, hepatitis, cirrhosis, pancreatitis, gastrointestinal bleeding due to gastritis, cancer, diarrhea.
* Bone marrow: Abnormal blood counts including anemia.
* Miscellaneous: Aspiration, pneumonia, accidents and trauma.

One important thing to note is that if an alcoholic stops drinking without relapsing, after seven to ten years he or she will have a mortality rate more in line with that of the general population.