Benefiting You

Disability claims reflect workforce health trends

As the leading provider of disability benefits in the U.S., Unum tracks the top causes of disability leave and shares results each May during Disability Insurance Awareness Month. Claims data over the last decade shows several long-term trends in the health of America’s workers.

Disability claims for joint disorders and musculoskeletal issues have increased significantly over the past 10 years. Unum’s Senior Vice President of Benefits Greg Breter points to aging and obesity as drivers. “Conditions related to joint and back issues can be tied to the aging workforce,” Breter said. “But the rise of obesity in the U.S. is causing a greater increase in conditions like arthritis, joint replacements and back issues. It’s also contributing to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, respiratory problems and certain types of cancer.”

But there’s also good news. Long term disability claims for complicated pregnancies have decreased nearly 50 percent over the last decade. “Fewer C-section deliveries, early detection and intervention in high-risk pregnancies, and access to more resources for new moms are all contributing to this experience,” Breter said.

Cancer has stayed the No. 1 reason for long term disability claims over the last decade, while pregnancy continues to top the list of reasons for short term disability.

Unum received more than 419,000 new disability claims in 2016 and paid $3.8 billion in disability benefits, accounting for more than half of the total $6.9 billion in benefits paid by the company. Here’s a look at the top causes for disability in 2016:

Long term disability:

  • Cancer:  16.4%
  • Back disorders:  13.2%
  • Injury:  11.6%
  • Cardiovascular:  9.3%
  • Joint disorders:  9.3%

Short term disability:

  • Pregnancy:  28.2%
  • Injury (excluding back):  11.3%
  • Joint disorders: 7.5%
  • Back disorders: 6.7%
  • Digestive system: 6.5%
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