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Ask the Life Insurance Expert

Will I pay more for life insurance if I've been diagnosed with depression in the past?

Not necessarily. The answer depends on the severity of depression and the complexity of treatment. The good news is life insurance companies have gotten more comfortable writing policies for people who have had depression, and in many cases they offer preferred rates--a major improvement from even just a few years ago. Insurers are more confident about writing the policies because much more is known now, than in years past, about the effectiveness and side-effects of anti-depressant medication.

If you've been diagnosed with depression, the insurer will want to see complete medical records to learn how it was treated and monitored, whether it's under control and whether you've complied with doctors' instructions.

A limited episode of depression that was treated with one medication and produced a successful outcome is unlikely to lead to higher life insurance rates, even if you're still taking the medication, as long as you are continuing to be monitored by a physician.

Your chances of securing preferred rates go down if your depression was more difficult to treat and required more than one medication. Time spent in a hospital for depression or chronic depression will also make getting the best rates more difficult.

If you're having trouble finding affordable life insurance coverage, work with an impaired risk specialist. These professionals are independent insurance agents who specialize in knowing which companies are most likely to offer the best rates for people with certain health conditions. A good impaired risk specialist will guide you through the application process and help you provide the documentation underwriters need.

Bottom line: Don't count yourself out of the running for life insurance at good rates just because you, like millions of Americans, have suffered from depression.

For more, see buying life insurance when you have a history of depression.

Last updated: Mar. 15, 2011