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The changing demographic of Social Security disability recipients

Recent demographic data about Social Security disability benefits may surprise some readers. For starters, the average age of an individual receiving Social Security disability insurance payments is 53.2 years old, down from the 57.2 age median in 1960.

The number of disabled workers on Social Security disability benefits has also grown to 9 million, compared to 5.9 million in 2003. One Social Security Administration official predicts that number will grow to 11.5 million by 2016.

That data may surprise some readers, considering the amazing medical treatment advances made in recent years. In addition, the growth of holistic wellness programs has also dramatically increased in the past decade, with more individuals thinking about how their daily living patterns will affect their long-term health.

Yet despite those advances, many Americans have a condition that Social Security Administration officials have determined to be a disability, or a condition that impairs work of any kind for an anticipated period of 12 months or more. Part of the discrepancy may be explained by examining the leading causes of disabilities in the SSDI program.

Arthritis tops the list, comprising almost one-third of all SSDI beneficiaries. Even more Americans may be experiencing some discomfort or limited mobility due to arthritis, although the level of impairment may not rise to the level of a long-term disability. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that one in three Americans report that joint problems are affecting their work performance to some degree.

Also high on the list are heart disease, stroke and cancer. Yet even that data may soon be changing. According to one source, the most common SSDI application seeks eligibility under some kind of mental health condition or disorder. Although many such applications are denied, a disability attorney might know the evidence required to qualify for benefits. 

Source:, “Column: Five things you should know about Social Security,” Mark Miller, Aug. 30, 2013

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