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Can stress cause cancer and affect life insurance?

TeamAckoDec 6, 2023

Stress is an inevitable part of life, and it can have a significant impact on your health, well-being, and finances. While stress can manifest in various ways, its impact on life insurance is often overlooked. India is a country with a population that is prone to stress, and its impact on life insurance is a cause for concern. In this article, we'll explore how stress can affect life insurance in India and what you can do to mitigate its impact.

Can stress cause cancer and affect life insurance



What is stress?

Stress is very common and everyone is likely to feel stress at some point in their lives. For example, getting late for work, worrying about a loved one's health, and getting stuck in traffic can be stressful. Stress is a state of worry or mental tension a person experiences when they are under mental, physical or emotional pressure. 

Factors that can cause stress are called stressors or triggers. Stress can affect daily routines and responsibilities, including family, work and finances. External stressors include poverty, inequality, discrimination, etc. Stress is known to cause anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headache, muscle tension, sleep problems, etc.

How does stress increase risk factors for cancer?

The connection between physical health and psychological health is complex. Studies have not proven a definite cause-and-effect relationship between chronic stress and cancer. However, studies have shown that stress can increase the risk of developing cancer. The five main cancer risk factors linked to stress are given below.

Hormonal changes

Stress can alter the levels of certain hormones in the body and increase the risk of developing cancer.

Poor immunity

Studies have shown that stress can weaken the immune system. The main function of the immune system is to defend the body against infections and diseases. A weakened immune system increases the risk of developing cancer.

Unhealthy eating habits

Stress can affect eating habits in two ways - it can make a person eat more or not at all. Mostly, stress affects hunger cues and turns a person into an emotional eater. The stress hormone cortisol tricks the brain into thinking that the body needs more food to fight the threat that is causing the stress. Also, cortisol can cause cravings for foods loaded with sugar, salt and fat, which leads to unhealthy weight gain. Being overweight and obese can cause long-lasting inflammation in the body which increases the risk of developing cancer.

Smoking and alcohol consumption

People who are stressed are more likely to develop unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking alcohol. Studies have shown that most people who experience occupational stress are tempted to consume alcohol and smoke cigarettes to relieve stress. But smoking and alcohol consumption is one of the main risk factors for developing cancers of the lung, liver, colon, etc.

Lack of sleep

High levels of stress can adversely affect sleep quality and duration. Insufficient sleep or sleep deprivation can also contribute to stress. Lack of sleep can trigger the body's stress response and increases the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which further affects sleep. Research has shown that long-term sleep deprivation can increase the risk of certain cancers.

How does stress affect people with cancer?

In patients with cancer, chronic stress may cause the cancer to progress and metastasize (spread). Here are some of the ways in which chronic stress affects people with cancer: 

  1. Effect of stress hormones: Research has shown that chronic stress releases a class of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids, which inhibits a type of cancer cell death called apoptosis. Instead, it increases metastasis and resistance to cancer treatment. This hormone also prevents the body's immune system from recognizing and fighting cancer cells.

  2. Weakened immune system: Continual stress can also have a negative impact on the immune system. Since cancer treatment already weakens the immune system, stress can further weaken it, making the body more vulnerable to diseases and infections.

  3. Cancer survival rate: Studies have shown that chronic stress can affect the survival rates among patients with cancer. So, it is crucial to take steps to lower stress. Emotional support helps cancer patients to cope with stress and also reduces anxiety, and disease-related symptoms.

The impact of stress on life insurance

Stress can have a significant impact on your life insurance in India. Here are some ways stress can affect your life insurance.

Increased risk

Stress can increase the risk of developing various health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. These health conditions can increase your risk profile, resulting in higher premiums or even denial of coverage.

Mental health concerns

Stress can also result in mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Mental health concerns can lead to higher premiums and sometimes coverage denial. It's important to note that mental health concerns can impact your life insurance policy even if they are not directly related to your cause of death.

Substance abuse

Stress can also lead to substance abuse, which can significantly impact your life insurance. Substance abuse can result in higher premiums or even denial of coverage.

Impact on underwriting

Underwriting in life insurance is the process of evaluating the risk of insuring an individual. Stress can impact the underwriting process by affecting your health and medical history. This can result in higher premiums or even denial of coverage.

What can you do to mitigate the impact of stress on your life insurance?

While stress can significantly impact your life insurance in India, you can take steps to mitigate its impact. Here are some things you can do.

Manage your stress

Managing your stress is crucial for your overall health and well-being. Stress management techniques such as exercise, meditation, and therapy can help reduce stress levels and mitigate its impact on your life insurance.

Improve your health

Improving your health can also help mitigate the impact of stress on your life insurance. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking can improve your health and reduce your risk profile.

Be honest on your application

Being honest on your life insurance application is essential. This includes disclosing any health concerns or lifestyle choices that may impact your coverage. While it may be tempting to withhold information, doing so can result in denial of coverage or even cancellation of your policy.

How to manage stress?

Here are a few tips to help you manage stress and take care of your overall well-being.

  1. Be kind to yourself: During stressful situations, you may be hard on yourself. Learn to be kinder to yourself as it can help with how you feel in different situations.

  2. Look after your physical health: Eating a healthy, balanced diet; getting enough sleep; and staying physically active can make it easier to manage stress.

  3. Talk to a professional: If you experience chronic stress, it is important to talk to a psychiatrist or psychologist who can teach you healthy ways to manage your stress.

  4. Take time to relax: Taking time off for yourself can help with how you feel. Take short breaks and spend time on things you enjoy.

  5. Spend time in nature: Consider going for a walk in the park, or go for a hike or trek with your friends. Fill your space with indoor plants as they can make you feel relaxed and increase positive energy. If you like pets, spend time with pets as studies have shown that pets can decrease the levels of cortisol and blood pressure. 

More tips to reduce stress

  1. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation and massage

  2. Keep a journal and write down your thoughts and what you are grateful for in your life 

  3. Organise and prioritise your tasks and remove tasks that aren't necessary 

  4. Find ways to include more humour and laughter in your life by watching super-fun movies, reading jokes, etc. 

  5. Avoid or quit unhealthy habits such as smoking, alcohol and drugs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to the given set of questions related to can stress cause cancer and affect life insurance.


Can stress cause cancer to spread? 

Yes, research has shown that chronic stress can make the cancer cells spread faster, especially in certain types of cancers like breast, ovarian and colorectal. During chronic stress, the body produces neurotransmitters like norepinephrine which stimulate cancer cells. 

Is anxiety linked to cancer?

Anxiety is not directly linked to cancer. But anxiety and panic attacks are symptoms of cancer of the adrenal gland, pituitary gland, thyroid and pancreas. 

Is cancer a part of mental health?

Cancer not only affects physical health, but it can also affect mental and emotional health. Finding out you or your loved one has cancer can have a big impact and cause feelings of depression, fear and anxiety. 

Can those with mental health issues get life insurance?

Yes, people who have experienced mental health issues can get life insurance.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on industry experience and several secondary sources on the internet, and is subject to changes.


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