If you’re reading this, you probably already have a disability insurance policy or are considering getting one. You recognize that becoming disabled is a real possibility with real consequences, which you cannot afford to ignore.

But what could actually cause you to become disabled? Below were some of the leading causes of new disabilities in 2013.

Musculoskeletal/Connective Tissue – 28.6%

According to a study by the Council for Disability Awareness, the leading cause of disability is Musculoskeletal/Connective Tissue, accounting for 28.6% of disabilities.

  • Musculoskeletal disabilities might result from issues such as back, neck, and hip problems. Think about it. Almost everyone has had some type of back, neck, hip, or other Musculoskeletal problems. It’s not surprising that so many people have been disabled by those causes.
  • Connective Tissue disabilities might result from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus and are also increasingly prevalent in our society.

Cancer & Neoplasms – 15.1%

Cancer & Neoplasms account for 15.1% of disabilities. Again, not surprising. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2014, 1,665,540 new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in. Add those to all the people who have been previously diagnosed, and it’s not hard to understand how Cancer accounts for such a large percentage of disabilities.

Injuries & Poisoning – 10.3%

This is an obvious category. It seems everyone is aware that accidents and injuries can cause disability. Auto accidents and falls are common causes of disabling injuries, but the possibilities are endless. It seems that no one is immune to these types of disabilities, which are typically random and unpredictable in nature.

Cardiovascular/Circulatory – 8.7%

I read a disability insurance flyer about 20 years ago explaining that many health conditions were previously expected to result in early death were now more likely to disable a person than to prematurely kill them. This change had occurred primarily due to improvements in medical treatment and positive livestyle changes. Probably no category of medical conditions has been affected more by this dynamic than Cardiovascular/Circulatory. Improved lifestyles and medical treatment prevent many Cardiovascular/Circulatory events. However, when these events do occur, we may live longer than in the past, but we also stand a chance of becoming disabled, which explains, in part, why 8.7% of disabilities are due to Cardiovascular/Circulatory issues.

Mental Disorders – 8.3%

I find this category of disabilities to be one of the most interesting and misunderstood. I often talk with physicians and dentists who are considering purchasing a disability insurance policy, and when this topic comes up, they will often dismiss it completely and immediately if they do not already have symptoms of a mental disorder.  Most people don’t think this can happen to them. Well it’s happening to someone, because it causes over 8% of disability claims.

Some examples of Mental Disorders include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bi-polar disorder
  • Adult attention deficit disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Alcohol/substance abuse.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently reported that about 42.5 million people suffer from some type of mental illness. That’s about 18.2% of the adult population of the United States.

Many insurance companies issue disability policies that limit the payment of claim benefits for Mental Disorders to two years during the policyholder’s lifetime. This could be a big problem for a physician or dentist who has a long term claim for a Mental Disorder. What if the claim lasts five years or more. In this situation, the insurance company will stop paying after two years of benefits. The Mental Disorder does not stop after two years and the disability does not stop after two years, but in this situation, the claim payments will stop after two years. Unfortunately, the physician or dentist is on his or her own financially for the rest of the way, all the while living with effects of their Mental Disorder.

This does not need to happen. There are high quality policies for physicians and dentists that cover disabilities caused by Mental Disorders the same as any other medical condition. This means the policies will pay benefits for Mental Disorder disabilities for as long as they last until the end of the benefit period.

A growing number of people suffer from and file disability claims because of Mental Disorders. When considering a disability insurance policy, it’s important to give this type of disability the attention it deserves.

Nervous System – 7.7%

Nervous system disabilities are caused by problems of the brain and nervous system.  Some examples of these problems include:

  • Stroke
  • Epilepsy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Meningitis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Peripheral neuropathies

These type of conditions are often very serious and can cause significant pain, as well as loss of function and memory. According to the Oregon Health & Science University Brain Institute, one in three of us will have a brain or Nervous System disorder sometime in our lives and, more often than not, will occur after the age of 50.

Complications of Pregnancy & Childbirth – 5.9%

Even though Complications of Pregnancy & Childbirth cause 5.9% of disabilities, most of those disabilities are of the short-term variety and are best covered by Short-Term Disability (STD) policies. STD policies typically cover not only Complications of Pregnancy & Childbirth, such as pregnancy bed rest, but also normal maternity leave.

Long-term disability policies, both group and individual, cover Complications of Pregnancy & Childbirth, but not normal maternity leave. Pregnancy bed rest would be covered, subject to the elimination period of the policy, and post-partum disabilities, such as post-partun depression would also be covered by individual and group long term disability policies.

What Can You Do?

In summary, there is wide variety of events and medical conditions that can cause disability. Some are caused by lifestyle choices and personal behavior and we have some degree of control over those choices. Others are caused by conditions that are outside of our control. The best way to avoid becoming disabled and suffering the economic and emotional hardship that accompanies disability is to make wise choices about how you live and to protect your income with high-quality disability insurance protection.


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