Disability insurance trends [part three]: The rise of health disorders

Recent statistics show that in addition to economic sluggishness and fewer jobs for American employees, the Great Recession also has contributed to an increased incidence of employee disability claims.1 Employers are doing more with less due to the economy, which, in turn, is taking a toll on employees. Larger workloads and longer hours often cause employees stress or even health issues.

A rise in health disorders
According to the Council for Disability Awareness, musculoskeletal and mental disorders were the diagnoses most commonly mentioned by insurers as increasing in 2011.2 Longer hours behind a desk may contribute to disorders such as carpal tunnel and tendinitis, while increased workloads are likely causing stress, depression and anxiety.

This rise in health issues has increased the number of applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to help protect employees out on a disability leave. In fact, new applications for SSDI have reached historic highs, staying above 2.8 million every year since 2009.1

A solution for employers
An increasing number of disability claims can be difficult for employers to manage and costly for their bottom lines. Here are some tips:

  • Intervene early. Connect at-risk employees with an employee assistance program to address situations before they become problematic, which helps employees stay at work.
  • Focus on problem areas. Because notable diagnoses were related to musculoskeletal and mental issues, work with behavioral experts to minimize workplace stress and ergonomic experts to reduce or prevent physical pain.
  • Invest in a return-to-work program. Because not all disability claims can be prevented, it’s important to have a program in place to help employees get back to work. Workplace Possibilities, for example, helps reduce absence- and disability-related costs by getting employees back on the job faster with the help of on-site consultants.

The economy has encouraged employers to make the most out of their current resources. With investments in early intervention, stay-at-work and return-to-work programs, employers can effectively manage, and help to prevent, these absences.

Jeanne Meister1 About guest blogger Alex Dumont
As the assistant vice president, product marketing for Standard Insurance Company, Alex leads product management and development for The Standard’s group insurance and retirement plans products and services. Insurance products include group life and AD&D, long- and short-term disability, dental and vision.

1Social Security Administration website. Available at: http://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/dibStat.html. Accessed February 25, 2013.
2Council for Disability Awareness website. Available at: http://www.disabilitycanhappen.org/chances_disability/disability_stats.asp. Accessed March 5, 2013.

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