Workers Underestimate Likelihood of a Disability

Nov. 19, 2004
A nationwide survey of full-time employees found that workers underestimate the likelihood of a disabling injury or illness and the nature of disability, while they overestimate resources available when employees experience a disabling injury.

In reality, one in three workers over the age of 30 will become disabled for at least three months at some point during their careers, according to data compiled by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) which sponsored the study, and the Society of Actuaries. Many never return to work. Yet nearly half of all respondents to the AHIP survey said they were not concerned about a potential disability or illness that could keep them out of work for an extended period of time.

A majority 58 percent of working adults believe they are covered by disability insurance, but only one-third of workers nationwide are covered. Workers also overestimate the proportion of disabilities that are covered by workers' compensation insurance. Only 10 percent of disabilities are covered by workers' compensation insurance, but 59 percent of those surveyed believe that the proportion is higher than that.

This gap in understanding about the need for disability income protection is put in stark relief by the fact that one-third of working adults say that their families could live only for three months or less on their savings and other income if the primary wage earner lost his or her income due to a disability.

"This new survey raises questions which profoundly affect the financial security of employees and their families," said Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of AHIP. "We believe it is crucial for families to have important data related to the likelihood of disability, the nature of disability, and the need for disability security, and we are making available on-line a new source for that information."

AHIP, the Society of Actuaries and the Actuarial Foundation have released a book, Disability Insurance: A Missing Piece in the Financial Security Puzzle, which is available to view or download by clicking here.

For links to the survey, got to

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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