Disability Statistics

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Causes of Disability in America

What are the most common causes of disability?

Most people associate disability with accidents or workplace injuries. But the reality is long-term disabilities are primarily caused by illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these diseases cause major limitations in daily living for more than 25 million Americans. Arthritis and back pain are also main causes of disabilities.

The second leading cause of disability claims is mental disorders and depression types of claims. This includes anxiety and rehab for substance abuse. Be sure to read the fine print on your policy as some policies have limitations for these kinds of claims.

Personal behavior and lifestyle choices that lead to problems like obesity are rapidly growing factors in causing long-term disabilities. About a quarter of all adults in the U.S. are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How many American workers are disabled?

The number of U.S. workers experiencing a long-term disability continues to grow at an alarming rate. In 2005, 2.4 million people filed disability claims with Social Security. The latest U.S. Census estimated that there are over 30 million disabled Americans between ages 21 and 64.

Protect Yourself With Disability Insurance

Disability Often Keeps People Out of Work:

  • An illness or accident will keep 1 in 5 workers out of work for at least a year before the age of 65.

    Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education, November 2005

  • One in 7 workers can expect to be disabled for five years or more before retirement.

    Commissioners Disability Table, 1998,” Health Insurance Association of America, the New York Times, February 2000

  • The average long-term disability absence lasts 2.5 years.

    Commissioner’s Individual Disability Table A


Disability Can Cause Financial Hardship:

  • 71% of American employees live from paycheck to paycheck.

    American Payroll Association, “Getting Paid in America” Survey, 2008

  • Unexpected illnesses and injuries cause 350,000 personal bankruptcies each year.

    Illness and Injury as Contributors to Bankruptcy,” Health Affairs, February 2, 2005

  • Disability causes nearly 50% of all mortgage foreclosures, 2% are caused by death.

    Health Affairs, The Policy Journal of the Health Sphere, 2 February 2005


Most American Workers Can’t Afford to Become Disabled:

  • According to the Federal Reserve, 44% of U.S. families spend more than they earn.

    Federal Reserve Board, Survey of Consumer Finances 2004

  • Over 50% of the workforce has no private pension coverage and a third have no retirement savings.

    Social Security Administration, Fact Sheet 2007

  • In 2007, the median income of households that include any working-age people with disabilities in the US was $38,400.

    U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2007

  • Only 40% of adult Americans have separate emergency savings funds.

    National survey commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and carried out by Opinion Research Corporation, February 2007.

  • The average American savings rate in October 2008 was 2.4% of disposable personal income, compared to 1985 when the savings rate was 10.3%.

    A Guide to the National Income and Product Accounts of the United States (NIPA)


Disability is More Common Than You Think:

  • Over 51 million Americans are classified as disabled, representing 18 percent of the population.

    U.S. Census Bureau, Public Information Office, November 2008

  • In the U.S., a disabling injury occurs every 1 second, a fatal injury occurs every 4 minutes.

    National Safety Council, Injury Facts 2008 Ed.

  • Three in 10 workers entering the work force today will become disabled before retiring.

    Social Security Administration, Fact Sheet January 31, 2007

  • Over 6.8 million workers are receiving Social Security Disability benefits, almost half are under age 50.

    Social Security Administration, Fact Sheet January 31, 2007

  • While many people think that disabilities are typically caused by freak accidents, the majority of long-term absences are due to back injuries and illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease.

    Council for Disability Awareness, Long-Term Disability Claims Review, 2007

  • In the last 10 minutes, 498 Americans became disabled.

    National Safety Council, Injury Facts 2008 Ed.

Protect Yourself With Disability Insurance

Social Security and Workers’ Compensation May Not Be Adequate:

  • Close to 90% of disabling accidents and illnesses are not work related.

    National Safety Council, Injury Facts 2008 Ed.

  • The average monthly Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit is $1,004.

    Social Security Administration, Fact Sheet 2008

  • Less than half – 39% – of the 2.1 million workers who applied for SSDI benefits in 2005 were approved.

    Social Security Administration, Office of Disability and Income Security Programs


Most American Workers Are Not Covered by Disability Insurance:

  • Over 100 million workers do not have private disability income insurance.

    Council for Disability Awareness, Long Term Disability Claims Review, 2005

  • 70% of the private sector workforce has no long-term disability insurance.

    Social Security Administration, Fact Sheet January 31, 2007