A Primer on Insurance Policies and Genetics

Link: https://www.soa.org/resources/research-reports/2021/primer-ins-policies-genetics/

Full report: https://www.soa.org/globalassets/assets/files/resources/research-report/2021/primer-ins-policies-genetics-report.pdf



A new subset of Somatic non-blueprint information is the growing field of Epigenetics, defined as changes ‘above
the genetics,’ where it has recently been found that lifestyle choices also induce non-heritable physical or chemical
changes directly on a person’s DNA after birth, and can be measured by isolating the DNA and revealing these
features. The U.S. Center for Disease Control states: “Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and
environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes
are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence.” (9)

An example of the latter is a finding that the tips of our chromosomes – called telomeres – can shorten or lengthen
in correlation with health status and ‘biological aging,’ a finding that was the subject of a 2009 Nobel Prize (10). An
additional example of epigenetics is in tobacco use, shown below, and generally discussed at the 2020 SOA Health
Conference by Dr. Brian Chen at this link https://webcasts.soa.org/products/actuarial-innovation-and-technologyupdate-on-recent-research#tab-product_tab_speaker_s.

Author(s): James Timmins

Publication Date: March 2021

Publication Site: Society of Actuaries