An often discussed life insurance risk factor in this forum is obesity. There is not shortage of evidence that carrying too much load is hard on your body, taking blame for everything from diabetes to cancer. This is plenty of reason for underwriters to take build into account when considering a life insurance application.

Body Mass Index, BMI has been the benchmark for defining the lines between healthy and non healthy builds for as long as I can remember. It has also been called into question for as long as I can remember mostly by those who, like me, who wonder how 5’10 and 180 pounds can be overweight. Don’t look it! Don’t feel it! And while I wouldn’t mind being 10 pounds lighter, I truly believe from a health standpoint I don’t need to be.

Now comes WHR. The “ waist to height ratio” is thought to be a more accurate indicator of health and mortality risk because “Fat in the abdomen, which is associated with a larger waist, is metabolically active and produces various hormones that can cause harmful effects, such as diabetes, elevated blood pressure, and altered lipid (blood fat) levels”.

The good news from a life insurance underwriting standpoint is that underwriting build charts have, for a long time, been pretty lenient on what they will allow. And often when a weight is borderline standard, one of the first questions is what is about waist size. So, while BMI has been driving a lot of medical thinking, WHR has been part of mainstream life insurance mortality risk underwriting for a while.

Bottom line. Whichever measure, if either, that you lean toward, the real test is how you feel, how active you are and how healthy you stay. From having toted far too many pounds a few times in my life I can attest to the fact that I didn’t feel as good as I do at leaner weights. I was less active because the pounds took the fun out of the activity and I was more prone to illness.