Do I have to tell my insurance provider about my mental health problem?
It's understandable to wonder if you should disclose (tell an insurance provider about) your mental health problem or not. However, if you don't answer questions about your mental health completely truthfully, and your insurance provider finds out, this could have some serious consequences.
- Your policy could be cancelled.
- Your policy may become void – this would mean that any claim you make would be dismissed, even if it's not related to your mental health problem.
- You could be charged a lump sum fee to make up the difference between the rate you were paying, and the rate you would have paid if the insurance provider had known about your mental health problem.
- If a claim has already been settled and the insurer finds out afterwards, they may bring legal proceedings against you to recover the amount they paid out.
- You may find it harder to get insurance in future.
It doesn't make any difference whether you actively lie to the insurance provider (for example, if the form asks you 'have you ever had a mental health problem?', and you tick a box to say 'no'), or whether you simply fail to tell the whole truth (for example, if you do disclose your mental health problem, but don't tell the insurer important details, meaning they don't have all the information they require to assess your claim).
There's also a chance that any kind of dishonesty could be considered fraudulent under the Fraud Act 2006, and may have criminal law consequences.
So it's generally not a good idea to lie – or conceal the truth – about your mental health history when applying for insurance.
If I tell them, could they treat me differently?
Yes, but only within the law.
The law that protects you from disability discrimination in England and Wales is the Equality Act 2010. This law says that insurance providers can only lawfully treat you differently on the basis of your mental health problem (for example by refusing to cover you or charging you more), if both the following are true:
- The insurance provider acts on the basis of information that is both relevant and reliable, AND
- What they're doing is reasonable.
(The Equality Act may also protect you from discrimination if you had a disability in the past which you no longer have, and also if the insurance provider believes you have a disability but you haven’t. See our legal pages on disability discrimination for more information.)
What does 'relevant' mean?
Insurance companies make decisions about whether to provide cover, and how much to charge for it, based on their assessment of the risk involved. They need to find out relevant information to help them assess this risk.
For information to be relevant, there must be a connection between your mental health problem and whatever you are buying insurance for.
For example, if you apply for income protection insurance, the insurance provider will assess the risk of you losing your job (and them having to pay out on your claim). Your mental health might be relevant information, because it might affect the likelihood of you becoming unable to work.
If the information that the insurance provider relies on when assessing your application is not relevant, then a decision to deny you cover or to charge you more would be unlawful discrimination.
What does 'reliable' mean?
Insurance providers must base their decisions on information from reliable sources. This could include:
- statistical data about risk or life expectancy
- medical research information
- medical reports.
If the information the insurance company uses is not accurate or reliable – for example if it is out-of-date or from an unreliable source – the decision to refuse you cover or charge you more would be unlawful. Insurance companies sometimes do not tell you clearly about the information they have relied on to make their decisions.
If you have been denied insurance cover, or if the insurance premiums you are being charged seem too high, our page on complaints and legal action explains how you can challenge this.
What does 'reasonable' mean?
As well as basing their decisions on relevant and reliable information, insurance companies must also make decisions that are reasonable.
There isn't any agreed legal definition of 'reasonable' in this context, but these are some examples of unreasonable behaviour:
- If they charge you a premium that is out of all proportion to the risks your mental health condition presents – this is very likely to be considered unlawful discrimination.
- If they justify their decisions based on generalisations about mental health conditions rather than information about your specific diagnosis – this is quite likely to be considered unlawful discrimination.
- If they deny you cover or charge you higher premiums and don't adequately explain their reasons why when asked – this might be considered unlawful discrimination.