Ageing and overweight workforce fuel rise in US disability claims 0

Overweight or obese workers and an ageing workforce mean that disability claims for joint disorders and musculoskeletal issues have increased significantly over the past ten years in the United States, according to data from Unum. Trends over the last decade show a 33 percent increase in long term disability claims and 14 percent increase in short term disability claims for musculoskeletal issues; with a 22 percent increase in long term disability claims and 26 percent increase in short term disability claims for joint disorders.  “Two particular trends are driving this experience,” said Greg Breter, senior vice president of benefits at Unum. “Aging baby boomers are staying in the workforce longer, and more than a third of US adults are classified as overweight or obese.” The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2022, more than 30 percent of people ages 65-74 will still be working, up from 20 percent in 2002.

“Almost everyone over the age of 55 begins to feel the twinges in joints and backs,” Breter said. “But research is showing that obesity is contributing to a dramatic increase in knee replacement surgery and exacerbates other conditions like arthritis, back injuries and joint pain. In addition, we also see obesity contributing to other issues, like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, and certain types of cancer.”

The top causes for 2015 were:

Long term disability:

  • Cancer                                                                     16.5%
  • Back disorders                                                         13.9%
  • Injury                                                                        10.4%
  • Cardiovascular                                                          9.6%
  • Joint disorders                                                          9.2%

Short term disability:

  • Pregnancy                                                                27.4%
  • Injury (excluding back)                                            11.3%
  • Joint disorders                                                            7.2%
  • Back disorders                                                            6.7%
  • Digestive system                                                         6.6%

The figures show that while Unum has seen an increase in joint and musculoskeletal issues, cancer has stayed the No. 1 reason for long term disability claims over the last decade, and pregnancy continues to top the list of reasons for short term disability.