10 Causes of Disability [and How Disability Insurance Can Protect Your Income]

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Did you know that nearly one in four people in the United States are living with a disability? Living with a disability is both physically and emotionally stressful, and in many cases can be very costly.

A 2018 report by the Institute on Disability found that the median annual earnings of people with disabilities in the US ages 18-64 who worked full-time was $40,353, while the median earnings of people without disabilities who worked full-time was $45,449. This is a significant earnings gap, especially for people who need this income to support their families.

None of us know when we will face an unexpected diagnosis or face an injury that leaves us unable to work. Having disability insurance can make all the difference if you were to get injured or face one of the following conditions that are considered disabilities. Read on to learn more about the ten most common causes of disabilities in the United States.  

Top 10 causes of disabilities in the United States

Arthritis and musculoskeletal problems

Arthritis is a common condition that causes swelling and tenderness in the joints. Having arthritis can affect your ability to perform sedentary or physical labor – it can often result in chronic pain, inability to perform daily activities, and can cause permanent joint changes. When arthritis and other musculoskeletal issues affect your well-being, your ability to perform your normal job duties could be affected.   


A cancer diagnosis can turn your life upside down, often leaving you unable to perform your work in your best condition. Additionally, medical treatment can be very expensive. Having a financial plan in place if you were to receive a cancer diagnosis could make all the difference so you can focus on getting better. 


There are many types of diabetes diagnoses. Overall, this condition is the result of high levels of blood glucose in the system and the body’s inability to process sugars correctly. The American Diabetes Association states that 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. While manageable in some cases, many people with diabetes struggle with the medical costs involved. Are you prepared to cover these costs in the event you are diagnosed with diabetes?  

Heart disease

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease claim more lives each year than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease combined. In addition, it is the leading global cause of death, accounting for over 17 million deaths per year in 2016. This serious condition affects the lives of so many people, and medical treatment can come at a hefty cost.  

Workplace injuries/accidents

The National Safety Council reports that a worker is injured on the job every seven seconds. Workplace injuries are most common in service jobs, transportation, manufacturing, installation and construction sites. However, a workplace injury can happen at any moment. Additionally, injuries sustained in other accidents at home or on the road are applicable as a short-term disability.

Lung or respiratory problems

Emphysema (COPD) and other lung ailments are a common reason to file for disability benefits. These conditions make it very difficult to perform daily tasks and can have an impact on your ability to make an income.  

Mental illness, including depression

Mental health conditions, including depression, can be just as disabling as physical health conditions. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that approximately one in five adults in the United States experience a mental illness each year. Mental conditions including bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and others affect so many people in our country, and these conditions are generally covered as a disability.  

Nervous system disorders

Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Epilepsy, and other conditions that affect the brain and nerves are common and can affect people of all ages. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and this number is projected to rise to 14 million by 2050.

Nervous system disorders are not only debilitating in many cases, they also present long-term medical costs that can put a heavy financial strain on families and loved ones.  


While most people don’t associate pregnancy with disability, many employers often provide short-term disability benefits for employees who face complications during pregnancy.

As a pregnant mom, you could receive up to four weeks of disability insurance before your expected due date in certain circumstances. If serious complications arise, you might end up needing more long-term benefits. 


Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds on average, and while considered separate from other cardiovascular diseases, stroke ranks among the top five causes of death in the United States. The effects of a stroke can range from very mild to life-altering. Depending on the severity, after a stroke, the victim may not be able to work again, at least in the short-term. 

How disability insurance can support you and your loved ones

Disability insurance can safeguard you and your loved ones in the event you experience one of the medical conditions listed above. This insurance can replace a major portion of your income if you are unable to work due to a disability listed in your policy. With this extra money, you and your loved ones will be able to continue to pay your rent or mortgage so you can focus on getting better. We are happy to help you get the most out of your disability insurance coverage at the most affordable rate. Connect with a licensed agent learn more about disability insurance and get a plan in place today.

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Calie Brummer
Head of Digital Communications
Calie Brummer is a staff writer and Head of Digital Communications at Quility Insurance with a focus on financial well-being and life insurance solutions.

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The rates shown are based on past examples of quotes provided to people based on their demographic information. These are examples of the kinds of rates you can expect. All life insurance quotes and approvals are based on age and overall health at the time of purchase. Generally, non-smokers in good health will get the most affordable life insurance rates.

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