Impact of Height and Weight on Life Insurance in Canada

How is height and weight used in life insurance? What is BMI and why is it important in life insurance?

6 Minute read

Originally Published: July 21, 2021

Updated: August 10, 2023

Impact of weight and height (BMI) on life insurance in Canada

Impact of Height and Weight on Life Insurance in Canada

How is height and weight used in life insurance? What is BMI and why is it important in life insurance?

6 Minute read

Originally Published: July 21, 2021

Updated: August 10, 2023

Impact of weight and height (BMI) on life insurance in Canada

One of the aspects about your health that insurance companies will look at is your height and weight – your BMI. Life insurance companies look at your BMI to determine your overall health for underwriting and determining your rate class. A higher BMI means that you will pay more for your life insurance policy, due to your increased health risk.

We’ve had many clients that come to us looking for insurance because they’ve had trouble in the past due to various factors they didn’t know were causing their applications to be declined. 

Weight Case study. Client had a high BMI and was declined life insurance despite being healthy.

A client we’ve worked with from Delta, BC, had hypertension, but she was otherwise healthy. The issue was that she had been declined by multiple life insurance companies due to her height and weight ratio. We were able to secure her coverage from a life insurance provider in Canada who did ask for a client’s height and weight, by finding the right insurer that covered her BMI. This allowed us to put in place an affordable life insurance policy for her.

What is BMI?

Height and weight are used in terms of your Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a ratio of your height and weight. It’s calculated by BMI = kg/m2 where kg is a person’s weight in kilograms and m2 is their height in metres squared. A BMI of 25.0 or more is considered overweight, while the healthy range is 18.5 to 24.9.

How is weight and height (BMI) used in life insurance?

Insurance companies will look at your BMI to help determine your life insurance rate. The healthier your BMI (the lower your weight for your height), the lower your life insurance rates will be. For example, if you’re 5’5 and 153 pounds, your life insurance premiums might be more than if you are 5’6 and 153 pounds because of your BMI. But having too low of a BMI is also not ideal, because that means you’re underweight and also at risk of or already experiencing health issues.

Each insurance company will have a different height/weight chart (build the chart) they use to decide on your premiums, and some are more lenient (have larger ranges) than others. The lower and healthier your weight, the more likely you’ll be fitted to ‘preferred’ premiums, which are cheaper than standard. If you don’t meet the weight range for preferred rates, you’ll be given standard rates. If you exceed the weight maximum for standard rates, you’ll most likely be rated higher (from 125% to sometimes 350% of standard premiums). Most life insurance companies will also decline if you exceed a maximum weight for your height. Note that some companies will have a unisex chart, while others will have a chart for males and females.

To give you a better idea of how the rates may look, below is a sample comparison of rates for an adult that is 5 ‘5-5’ 8 from Manulife, Sunlife, and Beneva (Formerly SSQ Insurance) for fully underwritten policies. These three insurance companies use unisex charts.

Maximum weights for standard premiums from Manulife Insurance, Sunlife Insurance, and SSQ Insurance.

To compare the leniency within their build charts, a 5’7” individual with a weight of 220 lb would be rated 125% with Manulife, between the standard (100%) and 150% with Sun Life, and have a standard rating with Beneva for fully underwritten policies.

How is BMI treated for Simplified Issue Policies?

Simplified Issue policies are more lenient with their build charts for BMI. This means that if you want a standard rating for your BMI but you are over the maximum weight for fully underwritten policies, you can turn to simplified issue policies. 

Below is a comparison of rates for an adult that is 5’5-5’8 from Canada Protection Plan (CPP), Assumption Life, Industrial Alliance (IA), and Beneva with their simplified issue build charts.

Maximum weights for simplified issue policies from SSQ Insurance, CPP, Industrial Alliance, and Assumption Life.

How do I secure life insurance if I’m overweight?

Being overweight will typically only mean that you are rated higher, which means you have to pay more for the same coverage you wanted compared to someone who has a healthy weight. Unless you have other severe conditions, being overweight does not affect you in getting life insurance. That being said, here are 3 ways you can secure getting life insurance if you are overweight:

Work with an insurance advisor to apply for a policy.

You may qualify because you fall in one of the ranges on an insurer’s build table, even if rates are slightly higher. Working with a life insurance advisor will also ensure that you get the best rate possible.

As mentioned before, some companies have a separate chart they use for males and females. This means that you could be rated more favourably for your BMI depending on the insurer you look at. For women, looking for an insurer that uses a unisex chart may result in more favourable ratings because it can give females a bit more leeway in terms of a higher, yet still acceptable, weight.

Reapply after losing weight and changing your lifestyle choices.

If you were previously denied or the rate was too high, work to lose weight can help you qualify for a better rate. Additionally, your build is taken into consideration with your lifestyle: for example, if someone is 155 lb at 5’5 but they are a bodybuilder versus someone at the same weight and height with an unhealthy lifestyle would not be rated the same.

Choose a no medical exam policy.

Looking into no medical life insurance policies is another option for those who may have trouble getting insured with traditional life insurance because of a combination of their weight, height, and other underlying health conditions. As the name suggests, no medical life insurance requires no medical exam or health questionnaire that would include asking for your weight and height.

Find the right life insurance to go with your BMI

Unless you have other serious health conditions, or you are considered extremely obese (in the weight range where they will automatically decline), there is still a good chance that you can qualify for the coverage that you need even if you are overweight.

What is bariatric surgery?

For some people, bariatric surgery is an option for obesity management. Bariatric surgeries either cause a reduction in the amount of food you are able to eat comfortably or a reduction in the absorption of calories from the food you eat, or both.  

Those with clinically severe obesity (a BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2 or ≥ 35 kg/m2 with severe comorbid disease) may be considered for bariatric surgery when diet changes and exercise isn’t enough to achieve a healthy weight goal. 

Bariatric surgery is an umbrella term for weight loss surgeries. There are four main types of weight loss surgeries: Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, adjustable gastric banding, sleeve gastrectomy, and biliopancreatic diversion. Gastric bypass is the most common type of bariatric surgery, and you typically cannot choose which surgery to get. 

How do the different types of bariatric surgery affect your life insurance?

If you’re applying for life insurance after getting bariatric surgery, it’s important to keep in mind that each type of bariatric surgery is treated differently, and will require you to wait different amounts of time before you can apply for coverage. In general:

  • Roux-en-Y gastric bypass: Typically have to wait 6 months after surgery before you are able to apply for coverage
  • Gastric banding: Some insurers will consider your application as early as 3 months post gastric banding surgery
  • Sleeve Gastrectomy: Some insurers will consider 6-12 months after surgery
  • Biliopancreatic diversion: Some insurers will consider 6-12 months after surgery

Can you get life insurance if you’re underweight?

As we’ve mentioned already, having too low of BMI (typically 17 or below) is also a concern for life insurance companies. Being underweight could mean that you have an underlying medical condition or mental illness that is a factor in being underweight. Having a BMI that is too low can cause other health complications and concerns, which poses a risk to insurers. 

According to, being underweight could lead to:

If you’re applying for traditional life insurance and your BMI is 17 or under, it’s likely you’ll be asked for additional medical information during underwriting. If it’s extremely low, you may be ineligible for traditional life insurance with some insurers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the impact of height and weight on life insurance

This chart showcases the maximum weight and height (BMI) to receive a standard rating: 

Maximum weights for standard premiums from Manulife Insurance, Sunlife Insurance, and SSQ Insurance.

Insurance companies will look at your BMI, which is a calculation of the ratio of your height and weight, to help determine your life insurance rate. The healthier your BMI, the lower your life insurance rates will be. Life insurance companies use charts to determine whether your BMI can get a standard rating. This will affect the life insurance policies you are able to acquire as well as your monthly premiums.

You have a number of options to get life insurance if you have a high BMI, the most simple options are to get a no medical policy such as a simplified or a guaranteed issue policy. These policies do not require a medical exam and just basic health questions. These policies can usually insure most people regardless of their BMI, but it is fair to say that these policies often will provide less coverage and can have a higher monthly premium.

If you don’t want to opt for a guaranteed issue life insurance policy or a no medical life insurance policy, it is definitely possible to get a traditional life insurance policy. Here are certain things that you might want to consider regarding your situation which will be beneficial to securing a traditional life insurance policy including.

  • It is strongly recommended that you work with a life insurance advisor to find the best insurance and best rate for you.
  • You can try to make healthier lifestyle choices and reapply. 
  • You can get bariatric surgery for obesity management. If you undergo this procedure you can get a policy from life insurance companies within 6-12 months after having the surgery. 

Insurers typically use the Body Mass Index (BMI) to assess weight. Obesity is often defined as having a BMI of 30 or higher. However, underwriting criteria can vary between insurance companies. This means that one company can rate you higher than another due to your BMI.

Some life insurance policies, especially traditional ones, will require a medical exam. However, there are no medical exams or simplified issue policies that may be more suitable for obese individuals.

Some insurers offer specialized policies tailored to those with health conditions, including obesity. These policies might have different underwriting criteria, and be more lenient towards those with a higher BMI.

Some insurers may be more lenient if you’ve undergone weight loss surgery and have maintained a healthier weight. It’s important to provide medical records and details about the surgery.

It’s important to keep your insurer informed about any positive health changes, such as weight loss, as it might positively affect your coverage or rates.

Contact Protect Your Wealth For Experienced Advice

Working with a life insurance advisor can help you find the right insurance company for your needs and situation. At Protect Your Wealth, we provide expert advice and life insurance solutions for whatever you’re looking for, including no medical life insurance, term life insurance, and permanent life insurance. We work with and compare quotes and policies from the best life insurance companies in Canada.

Contact Protect Your Wealth or call us at 1-877-654-6119 to talk to an advisor today. We’re proudly based out of Hamilton, and service clients anywhere in  Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta, including areas such as Barrie, Kingston, Kelowna, and Medicine Hat.

Talk to an advisor today.

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