February 10, 2001
CONSEQUENCES OF LONELINESS
Three years ago
I had colon cancer. The operation was successful. Subsequent follow up
tests revealed, thankfully, that I am cancer-free. Yet when my life
insurance policy expired recently, it was nearly impossible to get
renewed and then at only a very high cost.
lamely accepted this news as a not unreasonable consequence of having
had a life-threatening illness which statistically made me more likely
to die than a man who had not had colon cancer.
And then I read
Dr. James J. Lynch's powerful new book, ''A Cry Unheard: New Insights
into the Medical Consequences of Loneliness.'' Now I am angry.
A divorced man
who has had the same illness as mine is nearly twice as likely to die as
I am. Yet my insurance premium was not been lowered despite the fact
I've had a wonderful wife for 35 years.
A person who
smokes cigarettes is more likely to die young than a non-smoker. The key
study was the Hammond Report which led to the posting on every cigarette
package, ''Smoking is dangerous to your health.'' When Dr. Harold
Morowitz of Yale studied Hammond, he found a divorced non-smoker is
twice as likely to die in any year as a married non-smoker. A married
man who smokes is only slightly more at risk than a divorced non-smoker.
companies, I am a married non-smoker!
provides evidence that ''For every major cause of death, the rates for
divorced males ranged anywhere from two to six times higher than their
married counterparts.'' Heart disease, lung or digestive cancer and
stroke kill twice as many divorced as married men in any year. Auto
deaths and suicide are four times more frequent with the divorced,
cirrhosis of liver, pneumonia and murder, seven times higher.
A report of the
National Institute for Health Care Research reviewed 42 studies of
126,000 people which found ''highly religious individuals had odds of
survival approximately 29% higher than those of less religious
individuals.'' For example, attending church weekly stretched lives an
average of seven years for whites and 14 for African Americans.
Bingo! I attend
religious services weekly.
But when I had
medical exams for various insurance companies, none of them asked me if
I was married or divorced, religious or non-religious. Most simply
turned me down as a bad risk.
I called Mike
Weiler, Chief Actuary of the Beneficial Life Insurance Co., in Salt Lake
City, Utah, a firm which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, known as the Mormons. I asked if the company charged
reduced premiums on people who are religious or are married. He said
''Why not, since
you are owned by the Mormon Church, that believes deeply in the
importance of marriage and faith? Why wouldn't you want to promote those
values?'' I asked.
illegal,'' he replied. ''You can statistically show that white people
live longer than African Americans. But society will not let you charge
a different rate based on race. You can't discriminate on basis of
religion or sexual preferences.''
I asked whether
he charged lower rates for non-smokers. Yes, he said. I asked if
insurance premiums were lower for women because they live longer. Yes,
''Then you are
discriminating against smokers and men in your rates. Why not favor
''We are not
allowed to. It is not the insurance company's choice. However, from the
insurance company's perspective, it would make sense. State insurance
departments make the rules that we have to live by. Why don't you check
with your state's Insurance Department.''
I called the
Utah Insurance Department, and asked John Braun, ''Can a life insurance
company lower its premiums for people who are married since those people
been asked to do that,'' he replied. ''It is a rating characteristic. It
depends on the business you are taking on in premium construction.''
I called back
the Morman insurance company representative, and reported that his own
state did not say it was illegal to consider marriage. ''I may have
mis-spoke,'' he replied.
There you have
If you are
married or are religiously active, I suggest you call your insurance
company and ask why your premiums are not lower than they are.
I tried it with
my insurer, Zurich Kemper, and got stunned silence.
If thousands of
us do so, perhaps we will get a fairer system.
One final point.
Lynch's book makes it shockingly clear that an application for divorce
should say, ''Divorce is hazardous to your health.''
Copyright 2001 Michael J.