Worker health and wellness Workers' compensation Musculoskeletal disorders Worker Health and Wellness

Long-term disability claims related to MSDs rose over past decade: report

Photo: gustavofrazao/iStockphoto

Chattanooga, TN — Long-term work disability claims for musculoskeletal issues have climbed 40% overall and 62% among men since 2010, and are especially prevalent among workers in occupations that require heavy lifting, repetitive motion or prolonged sitting, a recent analysis from insurance company Unum shows.

Unum tracks and publishes data associated with worker disability claims each May as part of Disability Insurance Awareness Month. Although cancer remains the most common cause of long-term disability, according to the organization, the next leading causes are injury, back disorders, cardiovascular issues and musculoskeletal conditions.

In a May 12 press release, Marcy Ledford, director of health and productivity at Unum, said various physical and biological attributes of workers – including aging, obesity and lower activity levels – also can influence musculoskeletal issues.


To help prevent long-term disability claims associated with musculoskeletal issues, Ledford encourages employers to:

  • Emphasize the importance of workplace ergonomics in corporate health and wellness programs.
  • Offer incentives or reimbursements to employees who regularly go to a gym or use a weight loss program.
  • Create a formal return-to-work strategy that provides a gradual transition to full-time duty for individuals returning from disability.
  • Provide additional aids for workers returning from disability, including flexible work arrangements, part-time work, flexible scheduling and/or job-sharing tactics.

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