What influences your life insurance premium?

Life insurance premiums can vary significantly. So how do insurers work out what they will charge you for your life insurance cover?

Recent figures released by Public Health England revealed a shocking disparity between regions when it comes to life expectancy and premature deaths.

According to the Longer Lives study, which ranks local authorities, if you live in Wokingham, Richmond Upon Thames or Dorset the chances of you dying early are relatively small (between 200 and 207 per 100,000). However, if you're in Manchester, Blackpool or Liverpool, it's a much gloomier picture. According to the figures in Manchester 455 in every 100,000 die prematurely, followed by 432 and 389 in Blackpool and Liverpool respectively.

The alarming figures have sparked a debate about how health can be improved in the worst affected regions and whether economics play a part.

However, they may also make a difference to your wallet. With people in the North West more likely to die early then the rest of the country, will they find their life insurance policies to be more expensive? Are insurers likely to hike their premiums because a customer lives in an area with a less than rosy outlook?

The good news is that currently providers don't consider postcodes when pricing life insurance (although they do when it comes to annuities and some other products) and none of those that we spoke to had any immediate plans to do so, despite agreeing with the figures. Most of the providers will ask that customers be based in the UK though.

So if your postcode isn't a factor, what does determine the price of your life insurance policy?

Obviously health plays a big part when it comes to pricing life insurance policies. Insurers will want to understand how healthy you are, and will ask about things like your height and weight, any existing medical conditions and treatment you may have had in the past.

Some insurers will also take family history into account, for example, if your parents passed away at an early age from illness, although typically this will be ignored where your policy finishes before you reach 50.

Smokers will pay a higher premium, but if you quit for at least 12 months you can bring down the costs.

If you like to while away your days knitting or reading, your life insurance policy is unlikely to be affected. However, if your pastimes are a little more adventurous they may be taken into account. The measure is whether or not they present "a significant level of risk". So rock climbing, mountaineering, car racing or skydiving could have an impact.

Similarly, if your job involves travelling to dangerous places (such as war zones) you could face a higher premium.

Relationship status
Yes, your marital status can have an affect on how much you pay for your life insurance. Why? Some insurers believe people who are married tend to live longer than single people.

Obviously, the younger you are the more years you have (in theory) to pay into a policy and as such the cheaper it will be.

What isn't taken into account?
Since December 2012 your sex will no longer be taken into account for any insurance product. As women, on average, live longer than men they were traditionally able to get cheaper policies (as they would pay more premiums throughout their lifetime). The EU Gender Directive, which came into effect on December 21st and prevents insurers from using gender when pricing products, put paid to this.

When won't you get cover?
Most insurers want to offer you cover and, as a result, there are very few circumstances in which you will be refused insurance.

If you have a life-threatening illness, a drug addiction or alcohol dependency you may be turned down. Furthermore if your job is deemed too high a risk you may be unable to take out a policy.

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