Does life insurance cover suicide?

JACQUELINE BELESKY
Sub Editor · 12 August 2021
Suicide is a leading cause of death of Australians under 50, and about 1 in 8 Aussies have seriously considered it at some stage in their life. In this article, we explore how it is treated by life insurers.

If you feel suicidal or need support now, or you know someone who does, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Free, confidential advice is available to help you and your loved ones. In an emergency, call Triple Zero (000).

In this article: 

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is a category of insurance that includes different types of cover, including term life insurance, trauma insurance cover, total and permanent disability (TPD) cover, and income protection insurance. These can be bought separately or bundled into one policy, and you can also have a life insurance policy in a private fund, or as part of your superannuation (or even multiple policies). 

Does life insurance cover suicide?

There can be exclusions that apply to a life insurance policy. Generally, no benefit will be payable by an insurer for terminal illness or death as a result of suicide or an intentional self-injury in the first 13 months of your policy. Even after this time, suicide may not be covered, based on eligibility requirements. Whether or not a life insurance policy covers suicide will depend on the terms and conditions in your product disclosure statement (PDS).

As well as suicide, providers might apply wider exclusions to life insurance policies. For example, if you aren’t truthful about your health when you apply, if you intentionally injure yourself, if you take part in illegal activities or if you die during a dangerous activity, a life insurance policy may not pay out to beneficiaries. Other terms and conditions can apply and it may be worth checking these with your insurer so you understand your policy.

Can you get life insurance if you have attempted suicide?

If you are applying for a life insurance policy, it’s likely an insurance provider will ask you questions as part of the application process. A provider may ask you about this issue. With some policies, suicide is a common exclusion. If you have had mental health challenges, and/or have attempted suicide before, an insurer may say you aren’t eligible to apply for life cover. Or, they might approve you for cover, but apply exclusions or require you to pay a higher premium. The outcome will depend on the insurer’s policies and the other aspects of your application.

What can a life insurance provider ask?

When you apply for life insurance an insurer might ask you questions, such as: ‘Have you ever attempted suicide?’ You may also be asked wider questions about your mental health as part of a risk assessment. A provider will weigh up the likelihood of you, or a person acting on your behalf, submitting a claim against the policy. Based on this and other factors, they’ll consider your eligibility for cover and what to charge you. There could be different outcomes depending on the provider’s eligibility criteria and your (or your loved ones’) personal circumstances.

How do you apply for life insurance after a suicide attempt?

If you have been suicidal before, you can speak to a provider about a policy you are interested in to find out if you are eligible. Similarly to having a pre-existing condition, being suicidal in the past could lead to the insurer asking additional questions when you apply for life insurance. Many Australians with mental health issues have experienced discrimination or difficulties when applying for insurance products, including life insurance, according to BeyondBlue. It says: “Discriminatory practices include either refusal of insurance or denial of claims on the grounds of non-disclosure of a previous mental health condition.”  

ASIC’s Moneysmart says insurers generally ask you about your age; job; medical history; family history, such as a history of disease; lifestyle (e.g. if you’re a smoker); and whether or not you participate in high risk sports or hobbies.

If you have had mental health issues, you may want to consider seeking professional advice to support you in going through the process of applying for life insurance. If you are considering a joint or family life cover and one of the policyholders has been suicidal before, doing detailed research could be helpful too. You may want to write down and ask relevant questions you can think of before signing up. Canstar rates direct life insurance providers based on cost and features, but not all of these providers may offer policies covering suicide or attempted suicide.

How can I make a complaint about a life insurance provider?

Life insurance and suicide can be a complex area. You can speak to your insurer for advice if you have any questions about a policy and lodging a claim. The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) can be contacted if you want to complain about a life insurance or general insurance product. AFCA is available on free call 1800 931 678 and you can also submit a complaint in writing or on email. AFCA has tips for consumers to consider before starting the complaints process.

Where can you get mental health support?

If you feel suicidal or need help now, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Free, confidential advice is available for you and your loved ones. In an emergency, call Triple Zero (000). Mental Health Australia has a resources directory with helplines, websites and government mental health information services you may find helpful.

Cover image source: By fizkes/Shutterstock.com


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This content was reviewed by Digital Editor Amanda Horswill and Deputy Editor Sean Callery as part of our fact-checking process.