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Aggregate US life insurance premiums grew by 4.5% in 2019

U.S. life insurers saw aggregate 2019 life insurance premiums grow by 4.5% year over year.

The industry's ordinary life, or individual, and group life insurance premiums totaled $177.95 billion in 2019. Individual life premiums rose 4.4% to $138.36 billion, while group life premiums were up 4.9% to $39.59 billion.

Among the largest underwriters of life insurance in the U.S., only three — MetLife Inc., Nationwide Mutual Group, and Voya Financial Inc. — recorded year-over-year declines in total premiums in 2019. MetLife remained the nation's second-largest underwriter with $14.08 billion in life premiums during 2019, a decrease of 0.3% versus 2018.

The affiliates of New York Life Insurance Co. moved up one spot in the rankings to third in 2019. The mutual insurer's life premiums grew 13.9% year over year to $13.39 billion in 2019, the bulk of which the company attributed to a single large corporate-owned life policy for $1.0 billion underwritten by its New York Life Insurance & Annuity Corp. subsidiary.

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. wrote $15.37 billion in life premiums in 2019, the most among U.S. life insurers.

S&P Global Market Intelligence's analysis of regulatory filings excluded the reported results of MassMutual as Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. reclassified certain corporate-owned life and bank-owned life insurance policies to individual life from group life in 2019. In aggregate, MassMutual's individual and group life premiums were $9.57 billion in 2019 compared to $8.34 billion in the prior year.

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Individual life insurance refers to term insurance and all forms of permanent insurance (e.g., universal, variable, index universal, whole) and is reported as ordinary within NAIC statutory statements. Often offered through the workplace, group life insurance is typically term insurance and allows members of a group to purchase coverage up to a certain level without the need for underwriting.

S&P Global Market Intelligence uses statutory total life premiums to determine market share. Total premium is a preferred indicator of market share as it reflects not only new business but also the persistency of a company's existing business in the form of renewal premiums. Additionally, many policyholder acquisition costs are not recovered within one year. As such, total premium can also be a better indicator of profitability for life insurers, whereas new sales do not necessarily equate with profitability.