What Are the Most Common Causes of Disability?

Dharmendra Choudhary

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Disability may seem like a rare occurrence, but your odds of becoming disabled are greater than you might expect. There’s significant controversy over what the odds truly are, but estimates range from as little as 30 percent to as much as 80 percent, depending on how you qualify disability, and depending on who’s giving the statistics.

In any case, disability can prevent you from working normally, interfering with your ability to make money, and your ability to live the life to which you’re accustomed. It pays to know which conditions can lead to disability, so you can prevent them when possible, and protect yourself from them when it’s not.

The Importance of Disability Insurance

Before we get started, you should know that a solid disability insurance policy should be able to cover you for the vast majority of disabling accidents or conditions. You may have disability insurance through your employer if you have comprehensive benefits. Otherwise, you may need to purchase disability insurance as an individual. The premiums tend to be low, but you’ll be glad you have the policy if and when you become unable to work.

Common Causes of Disability

Now let’s dig into the most common causes of disability:

1. Arthritis and joint pain. It’s estimated that 21 million Americans suffer from arthritis, and even more suffer from chronic musculoskeletal pain. If you work in any job that requires physical movement, the chronic pain and movement restrictions of arthritis and similar conditions can render you unable to do your normal duties. You may also experience chronic back pain, which can make it difficult to sit or stand for long periods of time.

2. Cancer. Cancer is incredibly common, and comes in hundreds of different varieties. Almost any type of cancer has the potential to disable you; either you’ll be incapacitated and in pain due to the illness, or you’ll be so busy in hospitals managing the illness that you won’t be able to work as you normally would.

3. Disabling injuries. These are the event-specific injuries that most people think of when they imagine the possibility of disability. You may be involved in a car collision, or misuse a machine at work, or be involved in a freak accident. In any case, if part of your body is injured beyond repair, or if you’re incapacitated for several months or longer, you can qualify for disability.

4. Cardiovascular problems. Heart disease is responsible for one in every four deaths in the United States, and it can also significantly affect how you live and work. Fortunately, many cardiovascular problems are preventable, so long as you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly—though genetic issues can still arise.

5. Mental illness. Mental illness can also interfere with your ability to work. If you suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, or more severe conditions like schizophrenia, you may be forced to pursue care full-time or find yourself unable to engage with work.

6. Nervous system issues. There are dozens, if not hundreds of nervous disorders that can affect how you live and work. For example, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Lou Gehrig’s disease, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease can all affect how you move, and what you’re able to do on a regular basis. Though some of these illnesses often affect older populations, younger workers can be affected by them as well.

7. Infectious diseases. There are also infectious diseases to worry about. You may not worry about the common cold or flu, especially if you’re young, but all it takes is one strong, antibiotic resistant infection to seriously alter your life. Some rare infectious diseases may also have the potential to render you unable to work. Though some are unavoidable, many diseases can be prevented with proper hygiene habits and preventative measures.

8. Digestive health problems. Digestive health can also dictate how you work, and what kind of work environment you can tolerate. If your condition is chronic, you may not be able to work comfortably for long periods of time.

All of these causes of disability can prevent you from working normally, even in a white-collar environment. But as you’ve likely noticed, many of them are preventable, or at least can be mitigated with early scanning and preventative measures. Get disability insurance to cover your bases, then take your health and wellness seriously; a few good habits now could protect you from being unable to work for the rest of your life.

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