Without going into a lot of detail because this blog really isn’t about me, let me say that I am in the midst of coming to grips with some long term depression issues that I have just kept at bay for the last 15 or so years. Because it’s on my mind I thought it might be a good time to talk (again) about how life insurance underwriting views mood disorders.

I know it seems like there ought to be some consistency between companies on how they treat depression and anxiety and some of their more severe cousins like eating disorders and bipolar disorder, but that just isn’t true. Of the thousands of companies licensed to sell life insurance there are only a relative handful that will even pass on to underwriting an application that admits to any type of mood disorder.

That is the bad news, but just a piece of reality. Insurance companies are not required to view mortality risk the same. They aren’t required to accept risk at all. The good news is that there are still plenty of companies to work with out there who don’t run screaming into the dark at the thought of someone being depressed. Again, I don’t want to make this about me (or maybe I do?), but I think my situation presents a chance to talk about what even the best companies do with newly diagnosed depression. Even though, as in my case, the problem has been there for a long time, it’s not something I’ve seen anyone about and not something I’ve been treated for, so for underwriting purposes it’s a new diagnosis.

Not unlike underwriting newly diagnosed diabetes or high blood pressure, what underwriters want to see with a newly diagnosed mood disorder is a track record of compliance with treatment and successful control of the problem. If I were to apply for life insurance today, having just started treatment yesterday, even the best life insurance companies would be prudent to postpone consideration of approval for at least six months so they have a clinical and medical track record to consider. Are the problems caused by the depression reversing and am I able to cope with things and lead a stable life? Is it getting consistently better or have there been setbacks and medication changes?

Has hospitalization been needed? From an underwriting standpoint, whether with depression, anxiety or bipolar, that would constitute an “episode”. Generally speaking most companies will want to see a year or more of stability after an episode. Suicidal thoughts (ideations) would require an even longer waiting period and a suicide attempt is just going to put a lid on your acquiring life insurance for, again generally, at least 10 years. What the company needs to see after the episode, bout of ideations or suicide attempt is a complete control brought over the situation where there are not set backs.

Bottom line. In my case I already have life insurance in place and because I wasn’t diagnosed or treated for depression prior to applying and because my policies are beyond the contestability period, I won’t have to work my way through the steps to acquire life insurance. But, it’s important for people to know that the diagnosis is not the end of your chance to buy family protection.