Steady growth (RICK BOWMER AP)

U.S. application activity for individually underwritten life insurance increased in the first quarter of 2012, rising 4.2% compared to the same period last year–the U.S. industry’s best start since 2007, according to a new report.

MIB Group Inc., a Braintree, Mass.-based provider of health insurance of risk information and analytical services, published this finding in the company’s latest monthly MIB Life Index, a measure of the industry’s application activity in the U.S. The Index is based on the number of searches MIB life member company underwriters perform on the MIB Checking Service database.

Offsetting the quarterly gain, the report adds, was a leveling of application activity in March: The index reports a -0.3% decline for the month, down -4.5% from the month of February. The March 2012 Index results reflect one less business day than its March 2011 comparative period. 

U.S. life insurance application activity by age group reflects the Life Index composite results for both month and quarter. March results showed ages 0-44, off -2.1%; ages 45-59, flat 0.0%; and ages 60+, up +5.2%, year-over-year. 

First quarter growth, the index says, spanned all ages: 0-44 up +2.4% (largest quarterly increase since Q1 2002); 45-59 was up +3.5% (largest quarterly increase since Q4 2009); and ages 60+ up +11.5% year-over-year (largest quarterly increase since Q1 2010).

As a relative measure, the MIB Life Index (composite) remains some 20% below its par value of 100, established January 2001.