Can you get life insurance with depression or other mental health conditions?

Around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health issue each year. Furthermore, one in six experience a mental health problem such as depression and anxiety in any given week. Statistics also show that women are more likely to be affected. But while the stigma of mental health conditions declines, how is it viewed by insurers, and more specifically, can it stop you from getting life insurance?

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What is a mental health condition?

A mental health condition affects the way you behave and think. This can impact the way you interact with other people. Symptoms of poor mental health are broad but can include depression and anxiety.

While many of us will suffer from stress and emotional difficulty at some point, for anyone suffering from a mental health condition or illness, the symptoms can affect day-to-day activities.

Examples of common mental health conditions include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders (for example, bulimia and anorexia)
  • Self-harm
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Psychosis (which covers schizophrenia)

Can you get life insurance if you have mental health problems?

You can, but just be aware that an insurer will make their decision based on your circumstances, usually including your medical history.

It's important to recognise that having a mental health issue does not automatically mean you cannot get life insurance.

Can a life insurance provider refuse to sell me life insurance?

In some instances, an insurer may decide not to provide you with life insurance, but they must base that decision on reliable and relevant information – for example, a medical report.

If your mental health condition is classed as a disability, it cannot be used against you by law (under the Equality Act). This is because disability is a protected characteristic, and you should not be treated unfairly because of it.

Is my mental health condition a disability?

Your mental health condition can be considered a disability if it has a negative long-term impact on daily life. To demonstrate this, you'll usually need to show that your condition makes everyday activities harder compared to other people. You'll also have to show that your condition will last at least 12 months (or has already) or that it will recur.

Your GP or other mental health provider should be able to offer evidence to this effect if you need it.

How do mental health conditions affect life insurance?

How your condition impacts your chances of getting life insurance depends very much on your specific illness and the circumstances around it. Here are some typical outcomes:

1. You'll be offered life insurance at the standard rate

If your condition is relatively mild or is well-managed, it may not pose any issue at all. In this case, you'll be offered life insurance at the same cost and with the same standard conditions as people without a mental health condition.

2. You'll be offered life insurance but at a higher premium

An insurer may offer you cover but charge you more for it. If this happens, they will need to show that there is an increased risk of you making a claim.

Their decision must be based on reliable information, such as medical records. Any information they use must also be relevant. In other words, your mental health condition must have a direct impact on the probability of a claim. Their decision will also need to be 'reasonable'.

For example, if you've had suicidal thoughts or been hospitalised in the past, an insurer could see this as increasing the risk of a claim. In this instance, a reasonable decision might be to raise your premium (rather than deny your application altogether).

3. The insurer may decide to postpone your application for life insurance

An insurer might decide there's not quite enough current information about your condition and may choose to postpone making a decision. This could be because you've had a recent relapse or been hospitalised, and the insurer would prefer to see your condition stabilise before committing to a policy.

4. The insurer may decline your application altogether

In some cases, your application for life insurance may be rejected because the insurer considers the risk of a claim to be too high. For example, if you've had suicidal thoughts, tried to commit suicide recently or have been hospitalised repeatedly in a short space of time.

Again, the insurer must base their decision on reliable and relevant evidence. They should also be able to explain the reasons for their decision.

Does a mental health illness make you uninsurable?

No, having a mental health condition does not automatically make you uninsurable.

Life insurance providers must base their decision on evidence, not simply because of your diagnosis.

If your application for life insurance is rejected, don't let that discourage you. Insurers work to their own guidelines and thresholds, so if one declines cover, don't assume they all will.

If you're struggling to find cover with a mainstream provider, you could consider a specialist instead. Specialists will have more experience catering to customers with specific needs and should be able to offer a policy tailored to your circumstances.

Are mental health problems considered pre-existing medical conditions?

A pre-existing condition is anything you've been diagnosed with before you take out an insurance policy. In many instances, you don't even need an official medical diagnosis for an illness to be considered 'pre-existing'. It could be anything you've had symptoms of or had advice about or support with. So, if any of this applies to you, then yes, your mental health condition will be considered pre-existing.

Pre-existing conditions can affect your life insurance premiums, and some insurers won't include them in your cover depending on the severity and how recently they occurred. 

You will need to tell your insurer about any pre-existing conditions. If you don't, your insurer can void your policy, and they won't compensate your beneficiaries.

Is depression considered a pre-existing condition?

If you've previously been diagnosed with depression or suffered symptoms, then it will be considered a pre-existing condition, and you should declare it to your insurer.

Do I have to declare a mental health condition?

Yes, you should always let your insurer know if you've experienced any mental health conditions. You'll usually be asked about your overall health, including your mental health, so it's vital that you answer as honestly as possible.

If you don't tell your insurer and it comes to light later, they can void your policy. This means your beneficiaries won't receive a payout, and you'll have lost all your premiums.

Insurers will usually ask you:

  • What condition you have, and when you were diagnosed.
  • Whether you've been hospitalised because of your condition.
  • If you're taking any medication and if so, what and for how long.
  • If you've received any other specialist treatment, for example, counselling or psychiatric referrals.
  • What impact your condition has on your everyday activities.

Do I have to answer questions about my mental health?

If you want to get a life insurance policy and have had mental health issues, then you should answer any questions your insurer asks honestly. Not disclosing aspects of your medical history could invalidate your insurance.

What's the best type of life insurance for people with mental health conditions?

There's no one policy that's better than another, and what's right for you will depend entirely on your circumstances.

Remember that life insurance providers don't just consider mental health conditions, they'll take a number of factors into account. Getting an all-round view of your life and lifestyle enables them to accurately calculate risk – and work out your premium.

With this in mind, always try to be as upfront as you can about any mental health condition you have. Although being questioned can feel intrusive, it will help ensure you get the best policy for your needs.

For advice on getting life insurance that suits you, contact us. We can put you in touch with a regulated broker who can do the searching for you. No matter what you've experienced, an expert broker should be able to help you find what you need.

If you want more information before making a decision, take a look at our life insurance guides:

Disclaimer: This information is general and what is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Please speak with a financial adviser or do your own research before making a decision.

Founder and Editor

As the founder and editor of myTribe Insurance, the role of Chris Steele is to ensure that the information we provide is of the highest quality and value to those who read it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get life insurance if you’ve been diagnosed with depression?

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If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, you can still buylife insurance. However, it’s up to individual life insurance providers todecide whether to provide you with cover or not.

Insurers will base their decision on your medical history aswell as a range of other factors, such as your age, overall health andlifestyle. For more about how insurers make decisions about cover, head to our lifeinsurance guide.

Can I get life insurance if I'm on antidepressants?

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If you’re on medication, you should still be able to getlife insurance, but the insurer’s decision will depend on other factors too.For example, how severe your depression is, how long you’ve experiencedsymptoms, and how well it’s managed.

Simply being on antidepressants should not affect whether ornot you get life insurance.

Does anxiety disorder affect life insurance?

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It can do, depending on how severe your anxiety is. Insurerswill consider a range of factors before reaching a decision about your cover.

Can you get life insurance if you have borderline personality disorder?

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You should still be able to get life insurance withborderline personality disorder. That said, insurers will need to understandmore about your condition (for example, when you were diagnosed, what treatmentyou’re undergoing and how it impacts your life).