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How much drinking is too much when it comes to getting life insurance quotes? Heavy alcohol use impacts your life expectancy, so insurers want to distinguish between a person who has an occasional glass of wine and someone who has a drinking problem.

Life insurance companies ask questions about your use of alcohol and also use lab tests of liver function and other measures to find out how alcohol may affect your health. If you use alcohol in excess, you will likely pay more or even be turned down for life insurance.

A DUI on your record will also affect your life insurance rates and tell insurance companies you might have a drinking problem, even if it didn’t show up on a lab test.

Read on to find out how drinking can affect what you pay for life insurance.

Key Takeaways

  • Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to many health issues, so insurance companies ask questions about it on their applications.
  • Medical exams for life insurance often include lab work, and alcohol-related liver damage will show up.
  • Insurance companies can rate you for higher premiums based on your drinking or DUI history.

How does alcohol use factor into life insurance rates?

When you apply for life insurance, the insurer will ask about your alcohol use on the application. Anything more than social drinking will affect your life insurance rate. Drinking more than two drinks a day will generally knock you out of “preferred” rates and drinking more than three or four drinks will knock you out of “standard” life insurance rates, according to Ed Hinerman, owner of Hinerman Group, an insurance agency in Salida, Colo.

Excessive alcohol use was responsible for more than 140,000 deaths in the United States each year during 2015–2019, or more than 380 deaths per day, according to the CDC. Their report showed that “these deaths were mostly due to health effects from drinking too much over time, such as various types of cancer, liver disease, and heart disease.”

Hinerman says there are a number of different factors that insurers consider when underwriting someone with a history of alcohol abuse:

  • Does the applicant already have an alcohol-related condition such as cirrhosis of the liver?
  • Have they sought alcohol treatment or attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings?
  • Are there any DUIs on their driving record?

Depending on the severity of the alcohol use, an underwriter could decline your application, put you in a more expensive rate class or offer you a “rated” policy. A rated policy carries an additional premium because of a specific risk factor. For an explanation of classifications, read more about how life insurers view you.

Can you hide alcohol use from a life insurance company?

Even if you didn’t mention it on your application, if your doctor has notes about excessive alcohol use in your medical records, you’re facing high rates or application denial.

“Your alcohol use is revealed in your medical history if you’ve told your doctor you might have an alcohol problem or [they] suspect it,” says Hinerman. Your life insurance medical exam, often a requirement for an application, includes blood and urine tests that reveal abnormalities.

According to LabCorp, the liver function test, known as the Carbohydrate Deficient Transferrin (CDT) test, can be an effective tool for the early diagnosis of chronic alcohol misuse, for the detection of patients addicted to alcohol, and for the follow-up of treatment and diagnosis of relapse. You will have elevated liver function if you’re a heavy drinker but not if you drink in moderation. So even if alcohol use is not noted in your medical records or on your application, a lab result showing abnormal liver function can cause an insurer to assume alcohol use.

But an elevated liver enzyme level doesn’t spell doom for your application; it can also suggest there is something wrong with your health that isn’t related to drinking, or it may even be caused by taking ibuprofen. An insurer may postpone a decision on your application or run a further test called an “alcohol marker,” explains Hinerman.

“Even if poor liver function is related to something other than drinking, you would still be rated heavily, but as a health risk, because something else is going on there,” he says.

How do DUIs affect life insurance?

A recent drunk driving conviction will result in higher life insurance rates — even if your arrest was an isolated incident. Drunken driving convictions are another red flag for alcohol use.

The further away you are from your DUI conviction, the rosier your life insurance picture will look. Hinerman says that for the first three years after a DUI, expect a pricey rated policy. After three years you can creep up to a “standard” rating, and after five years you can get back into low-cost life insurance, or “preferred” rates — assuming your health condition merits it.

“When it comes to DUIs, insurers look at everything involved,” says Hinerman. “It will be at least a year out before you get an offer [for a policy], and it will be a rated offer. When you receive a DUI you are usually court ordered to go into a drug-treatment program. An insurer would want to know if you successfully completed the program.”

Hinerman adds that if you checked yourself into a drug treatment program rather than being court-ordered to attend one, it may look better to an insurer because you took the initiative to stop drinking.

If you have multiple moving violations like DUIs combined with alcoholism or drug abuse, most companies will deem you “uninsurable.”

Recovering alcoholics applying for life insurance

It takes a bit of time before insurers reward you for your lifestyle changes. Even if you can show that you’ve succeeded in an alcohol treatment program and haven’t had a drink in many months, you can expect to be declined or have a decision postponed within the first two years of your recovery.

Hinerman stresses that if you have or had a drinking problem, do not omit the information from an insurance application. That is considered fraud and any policy issued to you could be voided.

There are brokers who specialize in finding life insurance for people considered “impaired risks,” whether it’s due to a history of alcoholism or chronic health conditions.

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Michelle Megna


Michelle, the former editorial director, insurance, at QuinStreet, is a writer, editor and expert on car insurance and personal finance. Prior to joining QuinStreet, she reported and edited articles on technology, lifestyle, education and government for magazines, websites and major newspapers, including the New York Daily News.