More people are buying life insurance than they have in a while.

A new report by the MIB Group of Braintree, Mass., found the overall number of people applying for life insurance rose 1.4 percent in 2012.

The latest Life Index Annual Report shows a slow, but steady gain, says Lee Oliphant, MIB Group's chief executive officer.

The life index was at its lowest in 2008, and has continued to climb since, Oliphant says in a press release.

Increase across all age groups

The increase in applications was seen across all age groups. It was up 1 percent for those ages 0 to 44; 0.5 percent for those ages 45-59; and 4.8 percent for those ages 60 and up over 2011.

"This is the first time we've seen positive numbers in the ages 44 and below market," Oliphant says. The number of applications from this age group had been declining for years.

However, Oliphant cautions, it's far too early to tell if the trend will endure. "This 1 percent gain on the year may signal ground gained on the industry's marketing challenges, but again we remain cautious," he says.

Momentum slows among 60-plus

Momentum, especially among those 60-plus, seemed to slow in the fourth quarter of last year, MIB says.

MIB says the slowdown likely could be attributed to uncertainty over the estate tax exemption which wasn't settled until the very end of the year. The exemption would have dropped to $1 million for individuals and to $2 million for couples as of Jan. 1 had Congress not acted.

According to an analysis from the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting, The American Tax Payer Relief Act of 2012 sets the estate tax exemption permanently at $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples, indexed for inflation.

MIB Life Index based on searches

The MIB Life Index is a measure of application activity in the United States. Released to the media each month, it is based on the number of searches MIB life member company underwriters perform using MIB's Checking Service database.

The vast majority of individually underwritten life premium dollars in North America include an MIB search as a routine underwriting requirement. Thus, the MIB Life Index provides a reasonable means to estimate new business activity.