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LIFE Foundation-Sponsored Study Explores Disability Trends by Gender, Age and Occupation to Coincide with Disability Insurance Awareness Month

Washington, D.C. ‘ May 1 ‘ Americans are slightly less likely to suffer a long-term disability than they, yet those who do will likely experience it for a longer period of time. This is one of the main findings from a study released today by the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) entitled, ‘The Real Risk of Disability in the United States.‘ Conducted by the global consulting firm Milliman, Inc., the study offers insights into disability risks based on gender, age, occupation and disability type by contrasting U.S. individual, long-term disability claim incidence between the decades.

‘The good news is that the chances of suffering a long-term disability have gone down slightly over the past few decades, but the bad news is that the odds are still quite high and those who become disabled are out of work for much longer periods of time‘ said David F. Woods, CLU, ChFC, president of the LIFE Foundation. ‘Americans greatly underestimate the risk of becoming disabled and these findings should serve as a wake-up call for people to examine how they would survive financially if they were to be out of work for an extended period of time.‘

The Real Risk of Disability

The Milliman analysis found that today the probability of a white-collar worker becoming disabled for 90 days or longer between the ages of 35 and 65 is 27% for men and 31% for women, compared to 29% for men and 34% for women. While the chances of becoming disabled have only changed slightly, the duration of disabilities has increased substantially. A 35 year-old, white-collar male who suffers a disability lasting 90 days or longer will be out of work for an average of about six years. In the, that same male worker would have been out of work for slightly less than four years. The study found that disabilities are lasting longer for female workers too, but the increases have not been as pronounced when compared with the male population.

‘Advances in medicine and health care may be a factor influencing the extended duration of long-term disabilities. Where in the past, certain conditions like cancer may have resulted in death, better treatments and earlier diagnoses mean that today people are in need of care for longer periods of time,‘ Mr. Woods said.

Women Face Higher Risk of Disability

The Milliman study found that women overall face a greater risk of disability than men across all age groups. For instance, among workers with individual disability insurance, 25-year old white collar women are more than three times as likely as their 25-year old male counterparts to suffer a disability lasting 90 days or longer. At age 45, women are still almost twice as likely to suffer a long-term disability.

The Causes of Disabilities

For insured men and women in their prime working years (30-59), the medical conditions causing the most disabilities are cardiovascular problems, musculoskeletal conditions and cancer. One notable exception is the impact of pregnancy on female disability risk. Among women ages 30-39, disabilities due to pregnancy (mostly complications of pregnancy) are the most prominent claim type. The following table highlights the leading causes of disabilities for men and women in various age groups:

The leading disability claims by gender, for various age groups












Cardiovascular / Cancer

The Milliman study analyzed data for the top ten diagnosis groupings: cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, cancer, mental, back, alcohol/drugs, nervous, other injury and AIDS. Except for AIDS claims in all age groups and cardiovascular claims in ages 50-59, female incidence for each of the diagnosis groupings exceeds male incidence by a significant margin.

May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month

The release of the Milliman study is timed to coincide with the beginning of Disability Insurance Awareness Month, an industry-wide campaign designed to increase awareness of disability risk and to get Americans to take stock of their need for disability income protection.

‘Most workers are on very shaky ground when it comes to being financially prepared for a long-term disability,‘ said Mr. Woods. ‘Only about a third of all full-time employees have long-term disability coverage through work and very few workers have individual disability coverage. People need to realize how common disabilities are and plan accordingly, and our hope is that this new awareness campaign will motivate many Americans to do just that.‘

Study Methodology

To evaluate the real risks associated with individual, long-term disabilities in the U.S., the white paper focused on the results of the Individual Disability Experience Committee (IDEC) of the Society of Actuaries, which analyzed individual disability income policies during the and is the process of developing a new industry disability actuarial table. That research was then compared to the industry‘s current actuarial table, the Commissioner‘s Individual Disability A (85 CIDA) table, which is based on data.

To view the ‘The Real Risk of Disability in the United States‘ in its entirety or to receive more information about disability insurance, visit the LIFE Web site at

About Disability Insurance Awareness Month

Disability Insurance Awareness Month (DIAM) was created to get American workers to think about the need to protect their greatest asset ‘ their ability to earn an income. Held in May, DIAM is an industry-wide effort that is coordinated by the nonprofit Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE).

About LIFE

The Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) was founded in response to the public‘s growing need for information and education on life, health, disability and long-term care insurance. LIFE also seeks to remind people of the important role insurance professionals perform in helping families, businesses and individuals find the insurance products that best fit their needs. To learn more about these topics, please visit

About Milliman
Milliman, whose corporate offices are in Seattle, serves the full spectrum of business, financial, government, and union organizations. Founded as Milliman & Robertson, the company has 48 offices in principal cities in the United States and worldwide. Milliman employs more than 2,000 people, including a professional staff of more than 900 qualified consultants and actuaries. The firm has consulting practices in employee benefits, healthcare, life insurance/financial services, and property and casualty insurance. It is a founding member of Milliman Global, an international organization of consulting firms serving insurance, employee benefits, and healthcare clients around the globe. For further information, visit

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