Depression is a very common condition, with around one in six adults in the UK experiencing depressive symptoms last year, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Living with depression is already an extremely difficult challenge, so it can be discouraging to hear that it may have an impact on your insurance premiums as well. However, if you’re struggling to find affordable cover, it’s important to keep your search wide, not lose hope, and speak to a professional broker if need be.
If you have a history of depression or are developing symptoms of depressive disorder, it’s important to be aware of why depression and other mental health conditions can sometimes affect your ability to get insurance or the premiums you have to pay. In this article, we explain everything you need to know and offer some tips if you are struggling with depression or finding insurance too costly.
How does depression affect insurance premiums?
Depression is a condition that can affect many areas of a person’s life – it can damage your self-esteem and motivation, take the enjoyment out of things that you once found fulfilling, and cause feelings of hopelessness and loneliness. Living with depression, or having a history of it, can also affect your ability to get certain types of insurance. Or, even if you can get insurance, your provider may hike the premiums that you have to pay, or put certain exclusions in place that mean your condition won’t be covered.
This may be the case with any type of insurance where your health is a factor, such as life insurance, private medical insurance, income protection, but it can sometimes extend to car insurance or travel insurance as well. Just as you are expected to declare any pre-existing physical conditions so that your insurer can assess the chances of you making a claim, you will also generally be expected to list any pre-existing mental health conditions too.
If an insurer decides there’s a risk you might end up making a claim due to your condition, they may turn down your application, or boost the premiums you pay them to uphold the policy. Alternatively, the policy might simply exclude claims relating to pre-existing conditions. For example, if you go travelling with a pre-existing mental health condition and end up having to make a claim relating to this condition while abroad, you wouldn’t be covered.
The good news is that these are not blanket rules – many insurers are unlikely to refuse your application or increase your premiums just because you have depression or another mental health condition. Mental health conditions are not at all uncommon, meaning that insurers are used to managing applications that mention them – you won’t be the first!
However, your success with the application will depend on your history with the condition and how it affects your life, as well as the insurance provider’s particular approach. You may find that some insurers treat the subject with less nuance and understanding than others.
For example, the application might simply ask “Have you ever had a mental health condition?” and automatically charge you more if you say yes. However, insurers are more likely to ask for a few more details if you say you have or have had a mental health condition such as depression, and may want to contact your GP. They might ask about the severity of the condition, for example, whether it was a one-time thing or a recurrent issue, or whether you are or have been on medication to treat it. If it was a severe case but happened several years ago and has not been an issue since, it’s unlikely to impact your application.
The impact that your condition has had on your work life may also be a factor. Say you have had to take extended time off work in the past due to depression, then this may affect your ability to get income protection insurance, which is designed to pay out if you have to stop working due to illness or injury. Or, if your depression means that you are unable to work at all, you’re likely to be charged more for a car insurance policy, where the insurer will ask about your occupation and factor in your answer when calculating your premiums.
Conditions such as depression may increase your life insurance premiums if your insurer feels you are at an increased risk of committing suicide, or they might stipulate that the policy won’t pay out if you take your own life (although contrary to popular belief, many life insurance policies do pay out in this circumstance, so providers do tend to assess the likelihood of this happening).
What to do if you’re applying for insurance
It’s clear that having depression or another pre-existing mental health condition can have an impact on your ability to get a cheap insurance policy, but don’t assume that it’s impossible to take out cover, or that you’ll always have to pay very high premiums.
As always, the most important thing to do when looking for good-value insurance is to shop around for a good deal, and if you’re buying short term cover such as car or home insurance, don’t just stick with the same insurer year after year. Not only could another insurance provider offer a better or cheaper policy, they may have a more understanding or relaxed approach when it comes to mental health conditions.
If you’re worried about the impact that your depression or another mental health condition could have on your ability to get insurance, you may want to consider taking advice from an insurance broker before you buy. They’ll be able to point you towards suitable insurers, and help you find the right cover to suit your needs.
If you’re still concerned about high premiums, there may be other ways that you can reduce them. These could include paying premiums annually instead of monthly, paying for a joint policy with a partner instead of two single policies, or making positive changes to your physical health (such as quitting smoking).
What to do if you think you’ve been treated unfairly
Sadly, there is still a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to depression and other mental illnesses, which means that you may find yourself being treated unfairly by insurance companies when you apply for a policy.
The 2010 Equality Act protects you against disability discrimination, meaning providers cannot treat you differently for having a mental health condition without good reason. If they do not offer you insurance, it needs to be on the basis of information that is “reasonable, reliable and relevant” – they can’t just flat-out reject you because you have a condition. Insurers must also ask for consent to contact your GP for medical records.
If you think you’ve been treated unfairly, get in touch with your GP and ask them to write to your insurer on your behalf. Most companies will listen to your GP and their assessment of your health, so if your doctor agrees that you are not as “high-risk” as the insurer thinks, you might be able to sway the insurer. If you’re not satisfied with the response to your complaint, read our article How to complain about a financial company to see how you can take things further.
Resources if you are struggling with depression
Anyone can be affected by depression – while some people may struggle with it for genetic reasons, it can be developed too, often due to life events.
If you think you may have depression or are experiencing depressive symptoms, please reach out and talk to someone. Speak to your GP, as they will be able to put together a plan of action with you and advise whether medication might be a good idea.
Tackling depression is often all about incremental changes – it doesn’t go away overnight, so getting into little routines and habits can help you manage it more effectively. Read our article 10 things you can do to help yourself through feelings of depression for some ideas on things you can do to help yourself through these feelings.
If you feel desperate and aren’t sure where to turn, you can get in touch with the Samaritans by calling 116 124, or with Silver Line by calling 0800 470 8090. Someone will be able to offer you a listening ear and some friendly words of advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you don’t feel up to speaking on the phone, then Samaritans also have an email address that you can write to: [email protected]. You should receive a response within 24 hours.
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