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Underlying Mortality Assumption


The Underlying Mortality Assumption in finance refers to the estimation made about the life expectancy of individuals, particularly in the context of issuing life insurance policies or annuities. It’s a critical component used by insurance companies to calculate premiums and benefits for policyholders. Any variation in actual mortality rates versus the assumption can significantly impact the profitability of insurance products.


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Key Takeaways

  1. Importance of Accurate Assumptions: Underlying mortality assumptions are critical for insurance companies to determine premiums, evaluate risk, and ensure the financial solvency of their services. Incorrect assumptions can lead to financial losses or inadequate service provision.
  2. Based on Statistical Analysis: These assumptions are often based on extensive statistical analysis, which takes into account numerous factors such as age, gender, lifestyle choices, and medical history. With the rise of big data, these estimates have become increasingly accurate and tailored.
  3. Subject to Change: Underlying mortality assumptions are not static. They need to be regularly updated to reflect changes in medical advances, societal habits, and average life expectancy. An outdated assumption can have significant financial implications for insurance companies.


Underlying Mortality Assumption is a crucial concept in the field of business and finance, specifically within insurance and annuities sectors, due to its role in determining the pricing and profitability of insurance products. It involves predicting the life expectancy of various age groups. The more accurate the assumptions are about the lifespan, the more accurately the company can price its products to balance risk and revenue; too high a rate, and they may overprice and lose customers, too low a rate, and they face bigger than expected payouts. Therefore, the accuracy of the underlying mortality assumption can have a significant impact on an insurance company’s financial health, rendering it an essential aspect of their operations and planning.


The Underlying Mortality Assumption is a critical element used by insurance companies and related financial institutions, which involves estimating the likelihood or probability of death for a particular demographic. In essence, it’s a measure that helps insurers anticipate policyholder’s lifespan to determine premium rates accurately. The prediction is based on multiple factors like age, gender, occupation, medical history, and general health situation, etc. The calculations take into account these variables to anticipate how many individuals within the insured group may pass away within a specific timeframe, allowing insurers to evaluate risks and establish appropriate pricing.

In addition to determining premium rates, the Underlying Mortality Assumption plays a significant role in establishing the reserves that an insurance company must keep ready for expected claims. It is also used in the pricing of annuities where insurers are obligated to make regular payments to the annuitant for life. Hence, it’s not only essential for protecting the financial stability of insurance companies, but it’s also a critical tool for maintaining the trust and confidence of insured individuals or groups. Equipped with this assumption, insurers ensure they have adequate financial reserves for prompt claim settlements, contributing to efficient operations and customer satisfaction.


1. Life Insurance Companies: These companies use underlying mortality assumptions while determining the premium rates for their customers. They refer to mortality tables to calculate the likely life span of a person, which is combined with other information such as the person’s medical history, lifestyle habits, and family history of diseases. For example, if a person seeking insurance is a smoker, the underlying mortality assumption will be that this individual has a higher chance of dying prematurely, therefore, the company will charge a higher premium.

2. Pension Funds: Pension funds use underlying mortality assumptions to calculate the amount of money they need to have in reserve in order to pay out promised benefits. If they underestimate the life expectancy of their pensioners (hence overestimate the mortality rates), they could potentially face a deficit in the long term. For instance, if a pension fund assumes that majority of its pensioners will die by the age of 80, but in reality, they live up to 90 or more, this could cause financial difficulties for the fund.

3. Annuity Providers: An annuity is a financial product that pays out a set income over a period of time and is often used as part of a retirement strategy. Providers of these products take into account the underlying mortality assumption when pricing annuities. For instance, if they assume that the average life expectancy of a 65-year-old man is 20 years, they’ll calculate the annuity payments based on this assumption. There are obviously risks involved, for instance, if this man outlives the predicted life expectancy the provider could potentially lose money.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What does Underlying Mortality Assumption mean in finance and business?

An Underlying Mortality Assumption is an assumption that insurance companies use to estimate the likelihood of death among individuals of a specific class, age, or gender. This forecast is used to calculate insurance premiums.

Why is the Underlying Mortality Assumption important?

The Underlying Mortality Assumption is essential as it affects the pricing of insurance policies. If the assumption is inaccurate, it may result in financial loss for the insurance company or higher than necessary premiums for the insured individual.

How do companies determine the Underlying Mortality Assumption?

Companies determine the Underlying Mortality Assumption using historical data such as mortality rates, life expectancy, and health conditions of similar demographics.

Does the Underlying Mortality Assumption change over time?

Yes, the Underlying Mortality Assumption often changes over time due to factors such as medical advances, changes in lifestyle, and improvements in living conditions, which may alter life expectancy and mortality rates.

Can Underlying Mortality Assumptions vary between different insurance companies?

Yes. Different insurance companies may use different sets of data and calculation methods, resulting in potentially different Underlying Mortality Assumptions.

How does the Underlying Mortality Assumption impact policyholders?

The policyholder could be impacted by the Underlying Mortality Assumption in terms of the cost of their insurance policy. If a company has an inflated mortality assumption, they could potentially charge higher premiums.

What happens if an Underlying Mortality Assumption is incorrect?

If an Underlying Mortality Assumption is incorrect, this could result in an inappropriate pricing of the policy. If the company overestimates the mortality rate, it might be overcharging its customers. Conversely, if it underestimates the mortality rate, it could result in a loss for the company.

What are some factors that might affect the Underlying Mortality Assumption?

Factors that might affect the Underlying Mortality Assumption include age, gender, occupation, lifestyle choices (such as smoking or drinking), and medical history.

Related Finance Terms

  • Actuarial Science: This is the discipline that involves the use of mathematics, statistics and financial theory to study uncertain future events, often in the insurance and pension industries. The underlying mortality assumption is core to actuarial science.
  • Life Expectancy: This term refers to the estimated average number of years a person might live. Life expectancy rates are key in shaping underlying mortality assumptions.
  • Risk Management: This is the process of identifying, assessing, and controlling threats to an organization’s capital and earnings. These threats could come from a wide variety of sources, including financial uncertainty and errors in underwriting assumptions like underlying mortality assumptions.
  • Insurance Premiums: This refers to the amount of money that an individual or business has to pay for an insurance policy. The cost of premiums is influenced by various factors including underlying mortality assumptions.
  • Lapse Rates: This term refers to the rate at which life insurance policyholders surrender their policies or allow them to lapse by not paying premiums. This is also linked to underlying mortality assumptions as it impacts the profitability of insurance contracts.

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