Insurance cover and mental health

Explains how mental health problems can affect insurance cover, what your rights are, and how to choose the right cover for you. Includes a list of specialist insurance providers.

Your stories

I took mental health to Parliament

James went to Parliament last week to ensure mental health is at the heart of the 2015 Election debate.

Posted on 23/06/2014

Benefit sanctions - calling for change

Andy Kempster, Policy and Campaigns Officer, explains why we're campaigning on benefit sanctions.

Posted on 13/01/2015

Travelling with eating disorders

Juliette Burton blogs about the challenges of travelling with an eating disorder.

Juliette Burton
Posted on 10/08/2015

What are my legal rights?

This page covers information on:

Are there guidelines for insurance companies?

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) produces best-practice guidelines that insurance companies have to follow. These guidelines advise that insurance providers should offer full cover wherever possible. This means that it's better for insurance companies to charge more money to cover higher risk customers, than to refuse to cover them at all.

Can an insurance provider legally treat me differently?

According to disability discrimination law under the Equality Act 2010, an insurance provider cannot refuse to cover you or charge more for insurance on the basis of your mental health problem, if it is a disability, unless both the following are true:

  • they can provide objective, accurate and reliable evidence that you are at a higher risk of making a claim
  • the information they used to assess your application was used in a reasonable way

What is objective, accurate and reliable evidence?

This evidence could include:

  • statistical data about risk or life expectancy
  • medical research information
  • a medical report

If the information the insurance company uses is not accurate or reliable – for example if it is out-of-date or from an unreliable source – the decision to refuse you cover or charge you more would be unlawful.


Adina has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and she wants buy car insurance. Based on data relating to the risks posed by a person driving while experiencing mania, the insurance company tells her that she will have to pay double the normal price. However, the data they use is over thirty years old and based on a very small sample, and the study has since been discredited. In this case, the information is not accurate or reliable, so charging a higher premium is unlawful.

What does using information in a reasonable way mean?

An insurance company also has to show that the information they used to assess your application was used in a reasonable way. If a court decides that the insurer did not use information reasonably, the decision to charge you more or refuse you cover would be unlawful.

For example, the following uses of information are likely to be considered to be unreasonable by a court:

  • using out-of-date information
  • using information about mental health in general, or a related diagnosis, rather than about your specific situation and experiences
  • using information that is not representative of a wide range of people, for example if it is based on a small sample of people, or is specific to a particular situation or place


Hannah has had ongoing depression over the last 10 years. She applies for travel insurance and is refused cover. The insurance company base their decision on a report about the risks of suicide in people with depression. However, Hannah's GP provides a report to say that she has never experienced suicidal feelings and that, due to medication and regular counselling, her condition is currently stable. In this case, a court may well decide that the way insurance company used the report was not reasonable, and that the decision to refuse cover was unlawful.

Can an insurance provider access my medical records?

Insurance providers cannot access your medical records without your consent. However, if you disclose a mental health problem, the insurance provider will often ask for further information from your doctor. They may also ask you to see an independent doctor that they choose.

In this situation, you have the following rights:

  • The insurance company can only contact your doctor if they have your written consent.
  • You have the right to see a doctor's report about you before it is sent. This is the same whether it is your own GP or psychiatrist, or an independent doctor that the insurance company have chosen.
  • You can stop a report from your regular GP or psychiatrist being sent if you are unhappy with it.
  • You can't stop a report being sent if it is from an independent doctor who has never treated you before, even if you disagree with it.

If you refuse to give written consent, refuse to allow your doctor to send their report or refuse to see an independent doctor, an insurance company may decide to refuse to insure you. Unfortunately, this is their legal right and there is nothing you can do about this.

See our legal pages on your personal information for more information about your rights regarding access to your medical records.

This information was published in August 2015. We will revise it in 2018.

Mental Health A-Z

Information and advice on a huge range of mental health topics

> Read our A-Z


Helping you to better understand and support people with mental health problems

> Find out more

Special offers

Check out our promotional offers on print and digital booklets, for a limited time only

> Visit our shop today