Income Protection

What Are The Top 10 Causes of Disability?

Ten-year review of Unum’s disability claims shows trends in workplace absences

Research reveals cancer still #1 long-term threat; Pregnancy the leading short-term risk

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (May 3, 2018) – A 10-year review of disability claims shows the effects of an aging workforce, medical advances and the power of early intervention, according to data from Unum (NYSE: UNM), a leading provider of disability benefits. Unum tracks reasons behind workplace absence in its disability data and shares results each May during Disability Insurance Awareness Month.

Key findings include:
– Short and long term disability claims for joint disorders and musculoskeletal issues have increased significantly over the past 10 years.

– Cancer has stayed the No. 1 reason for long term disability claims over the last decade, representing 17 percent of claims.

– Pregnancy continues to top the list of short term disability claims, at 28 percent.

– Long term disability claims for complicated pregnancies have decreased 47 percent over the last decade.

The percentage of Unum’s short term disability behavioral health claims that transition to long term is down 15 percent, the result of a dedicated behavioral health program implemented at Unum.

AN Aging Workforce

“As people work longer and later in life, we’re seeing the effects of an aging workforce,” said Greg Breter, senior vice president of Benefits at Unum. “The spike in joint disorders and musculoskeletal issues is especially prominent among Baby Boomers, who make up over half of all long term disability claims.”

In addition, higher obesity rates and stress among workers can cause or aggravate other health conditions, like heart disease and musculoskeletal issues, Breter said.

There’s good news, too, though. Advances in medical treatment, lower C-section rates and more resources for new moms are leading to fewer complicated pregnancies. And, Unum’s dedicated early intervention and preventative strategies for behavioral health claims mean more people are able to get to back work sooner.

Unum received more than 424,500 new disability claims in 2017 and paid $3.8 billion in disability benefits.

Here are the top causes of disability for 2017:

Long term disability:
– Cancer 17%
– Back disorders 13%
– Injury 12%
– Cardiovascular 9%
– Joint disorders 9%

Short term disability:
– Pregnancy 28%
– Injury (excluding back) 11%
– Joint disorders 8%
– Digestive system 7%
– Cancer 7%

One in four U.S. workers has less than $1,000 in savings, and more than half of households would struggle to recover from an unexpected $2,000 expense, according to a 2017 GoBankingRates study.

One in four U.S. workers has less than $1,000 in savings, and more than half of households would struggle to recover from an unexpected $2,000 expense

Chriseta Gaskin, a 61-year-old personal banker, said, “The normal wear and tear of doing my job over the years took its toll, and my knees went bone to bone.” Gaskin used Unum disability coverage to protect her from significant income loss during absence for knee replacement surgery, recovery, and return to work. “My disability benefits check was direct deposited reguarly, so I always had money to pay the bills. It was nice to not worry about expenses.”

Unum Group is a leading provider of financial protection benefits in the United States and the United Kingdom. Its primary businesses are Unum US, Colonial Life, and Unum UK. Unum’s portfolio includes disability, life, accident and critical illness, dental and vision coverage, which help protect millions of working people and their families in the event of an illness or injury. Unum also provides stop-loss coverage to help self-insured employers protect against unanticipated medical costs. The company reported revenues of $11.3 billion in 2017, and provided $7 billion in benefits.