Triple-wide coffins designed for people as heavy as 700 pounds are becoming big sellers. Some cars are being equipped with seatbelt “extenders” to protect the portly. And airlines are starting to make larger passengers pay for two seats if they cant squeeze into one.
America is getting bigger every year and were not talking geography.
This weighty problem has real implications for life insurers, because how much someone weighs can have a big, albeit indirect, impact on his or her longevity. Even so, clients who have gained more than a few pounds since high schoolincluding older clientsare now finding it easier to buy life insurance at the cheapest rates possible. This article looks at both trends.
The percentage of Americans considered overweight or obese increased from 47% in 1980 to 64.5% in 1999, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey published by the National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, Md. Overweight and obese are measured by the body mass index (multiply body weight by 703, and then divide the result by the square of height in inches).
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Earlier this year the U.S. Surgeon General declared obesity a national epidemic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed obesity as the No. 2 cause of preventable death.
Obesity is associated with a myriad of life-threatening diseases, including Type 2 Diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension and some forms of cancer. Type 2 Diabetes in particular is growing at an alarming rate. The combination of obesity and diabetes is expected soon to overtake tobacco use as the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States.
But, as noted above, life insurers actually are reducing rates for people of all ages, even those carrying some extra weight. How come? The answer lies in the overall improvement in mortality rates. Americans are living longereven though theyre getting bigger and becoming less healthy–because treatments and prevention have improved for many killer diseases.
In the past few years, improved mortality actually has enabled many life insurers to relax underwriting standards for those younger than 70.
New information from insurers experience, breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of cancer and heart disease, and other medical advances have made it easier for people who are effectively treated for medical conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol or even minor skin cancers to buy life insurance with preferred rates.
Previously, applicants with such conditions would have had to pay extra for coverage or may even have been denied.