More on Life Insurance
More on Life Insurance
A history of heavy alcohol consumption can make it harder to find affordable life insurance for 10 years or more, but you still have options.
Updated May 7, 2021|3 min read
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In recent surveys, more than 30% of U.S. adults claimed they consumed alcohol in excess within the last 30 days.  But having an alcohol addiction can make it more difficult for you to buy life insurance for years.
Because of the medical conditions associated with excessive alcohol consumption, many providers decline coverage or significantly increase premiums for recovering alcoholics in their first 10 years of sobriety. Here’s why alcohol use matters to life insurance companies and how recovering alcoholics can secure a policy to protect their loved ones.
Recovering alcoholics could be declined life insurance up to three years after their last drink
You’ll need to be sober for 10 years or more to be eligible for the best rates with most insurance companies
Recent DUI convictions could lead to automatic application declines
Seeking treatment or counseling may help you receive better rates
Your life insurance premium is mostly based on how risky you are to insure. If you’re less healthy or have a riskier lifestyle, you’ll receive a less favorable insurance classification and higher premiums.
Excessive drinking increases the chances you’ll injure yourself or others while intoxicated and can cause serious health issues, including:
Breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon cancer
Depression and anxiety
High blood pressure
Weakened immune system 
The CDC defines excessive drinking as binge drinking or heavy drinking:
Binge drinking: Four drinks (women) or five drinks (men) during a single occasion
Heavy drinking: Eight drinks (women) or 15 drinks (men) during a single occasion
If you have a recent DUI/DWI conviction on your motor vehicle report and have a history of alcohol abuse, it’ll be even harder to find life insurance coverage. Most providers won’t offer you a policy until at least five years after your conviction.
Insurance classifications range from Preferred Plus (most affordable rates) to Substandard (most expensive rates). Recovering alcoholics will often get Substandard rates or be declined coverage less than five years from their last drink and Standard rates after five years or more, according to Policygenius data from May 2021.
Here’s how much a 35-year-old might pay monthly for a $500,000, 20-year policy in different classifications:
To be considered for the most competitive rates, you often need to be sober for 10 years or more. You may improve your chances of a better insurance classification if you’ve sought treatment for your alcohol abuse, such as counseling or entering a rehab facility.
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If you have a couple of drinks per day, your insurer probably won’t be too concerned about your alcohol consumption. Life insurance companies want to know if your drinking could cause health issues or dangerous behaviors.
During the underwriting process, you’ll be asked if you drink or use any other substances and how often. You may also be asked:
How many drinks do you have per day?
If you are not currently a drinker, when was the last time you consumed alcohol?
Do you have any history of excessive drinking?
Do you have any health conditions linked to your alcohol consumption?
Have you ever received alcohol-related counseling?
Have you participated in inpatient or outpatient alcohol treatment?
Have you ever had a DUI/DWI?
Answer these questions honestly. If you lie, your application could be declined and you may have trouble buying coverage in the future. Plus, underwriting often includes a medical exam with routine blood testing for substance abuse.
Blood tests will identify carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT),  a common indicator of heavy alcohol consumption—defined as about five drinks per day in this test—in the previous two weeks.
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If you’re currently struggling with an alcohol addiction, you should seek help in addition to buying life insurance. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous can provide support that will be valuable for your recovery.
If you are a recovering alcoholic, you will face some hurdles when buying a life insurance policy, like higher premiums and longer application processing to ensure a thorough medical history review. But you’re not completely out of options:
Group life insurance: Many employers offer subsidized life insurance to employees that don’t require any health information for approval. Coverage may be limited and you’ll lose the policy if you change jobs.
Final expense insurance: If you don’t qualify for traditional life insurance, final expense policies offer coverage up to $40,000 for those 45 years and older, albeit with higher premiums.
Reapply in the future: After you’ve been sober for 10 or more years, insurers will be more likely to consider you for their best rates. You can shop for a new policy or ask your current insurer to reconsider your rates once you reach this milestone.
Shop around with a broker: Every insurer weighs risk differently. Independent brokers like Policygenius can compare multiple providers at once to find you the best rates.
Buying life insurance as a recovering alcoholic can be more involved than the process for someone with no addiction history, but it’s not impossible. It helps to know what challenges you might face, and comparing companies will help you find the best policy for your family’s needs.
Casual drinkers can easily get life insurance. If you have a history of alcohol abuse, you may not qualify for traditional life insurance for three or more years.
Many insurers define heavy drinking as more than three drinks per day. They will also review your health for alcohol-related conditions and blood test for indicators of heavy drinking.
If you were honest about how much you drink and past alcoholism, your policy will cover an alcohol-related death. If you were dishonest when applying, the payout to your family could be reduced or denied.