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Coffee drinkers pay more for life insurance, study finds

Brian Anderson

Bad news coffee drinkers. Despite some findings that coffee does not affect health adversely, a new survey of 1,000 coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers who own life insurance, commissioned by New York City-based life insurance quote comparison site Life Ant, has found that on average, the coffee drinkers are paying more for their life insurance than their non-coffee-drinking counterparts. The survey found that the average coffee drinker pays almost a staggering 20% more for equivalent life insurance coverage. The mean life insurance cost for a coffee drinker is $19.24 for their term coverage. Non-coffee drinkers are paying $15.98 for the equivalent coverage.

The survey relied on self reporting, and covered 500 life insurance owners who drank coffee at the time of their application, and 500 who did not. To avoid the effect that different types of life insurance have on price, the survey used owners of term life insurance. It also limited the scope to policies with under $500,000 of death benefit, and the difference in average death benefit between the coffee drinkers and non-drinking groups was not statistically significant.

The paramedical exam could be where the trouble lies for coffee drinkers. During a paramedical exam, the examiner will take the blood pressure and the heart rate of the life insurance applicant. Generally speaking, a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure correspond with greater cardiovascular health, and a longer life expectancy. As a result, life insurance companies weight these factors very strongly in their underwriting process for the purposes of determining rate class, and therefore price for the insured person.

Coffee, and in particular caffeine, is strongly associated with a sharp rise in blood pressure. According to a meta analysis of controlled clinical trials looking at this issue published by the American Heart Association, consumption of coffee is associated with a statistically significant rise in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure for up to 24 hours after consumption. This is not helpful for someone going through life insurance underwriting.

Underwriters may also look at cortisol levels in the blood, because this is a marker of stress and higher levels are also associated with greater cardiovascular risk according to a 2005 study. Caffeine has also been shown to increase cortisol release into the bloodstream, according to a study published by the NCBI.

If someone drinks coffee or any caffeinated drink any time during the day before their life insurance exam, chances are that they are going to show a higher heart rate, higher blood pressure, and higher cortisol levels than if they did not drink coffee. This may be causing them to receive on average slightly worse health ratings from underwriting.

Another reason may be that coffee drinkers on average are less healthy than non-coffee drinkers, but this effect was not accounted for in the survey.

Any applicant going through a paramedical exam should be instructed to avoid coffee for the 24 hours prior to the exam.

• See also: 8 ways to improve scores on a life insurance paramedical exam

• Have any tips to help applicants improve their paramedical exam results? Please share them on this new thread on Insurance Forums.



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