What Are the Top 10 Disabilities?

Pew Research and the U.S. Census report that approximately 42.5 million Americans, or about 13% of the country’s population, live with some sort of disability. Around 7.4 million of these individuals receive Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) for their disabilities. Although this group includes a variety of disabilities, some types occur more frequently than others.

The Social Security Administration Identifies the Most Common Disabilities

In its 2022 Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, the Social Security Administration identifies the types of disabilities that most commonly result in disability benefits. This list includes:

1. Musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue Disorders

The most common type of disability in the U.S. is a musculoskeletal or connective tissue disorder. About 34.9% of SSDI claimants have such a condition. This category encompasses conditions like arthritis, scoliosis, and degenerative disc disease. It can also include knee and shoulder issues as well as carpal tunnel syndrome.

2. Neoplasms

About 13.6% of SSDI recipients receive benefits because of neoplasms. These are growths or tumors within the body that impact other organs and body parts. Some neoplasms develop into cancerous tumors.

3. Circulatory System Disabilities

The circulatory system encompasses the heart and blood vessels. Disorders that can lead to SSDI benefits include heart failure, stroke, and high blood pressure. About 11% of claimants have a disorder in this category.

4. Nervous System Disorders

Meningitis, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injuries are examples of injuries to the nervous system that can be disabling for some individuals. Approximately 9.5% of SSDI claimants have such a condition.

5. Depressive and Bipolar Disorders

Approximately 3.9% of Americans claiming disability benefits have a condition that fits into this category, including conditions like bipolar I disorder and major depressive disorder.

6. Neurocognitive Disabilities

Neurocognitive disorders are conditions that affect a person’s brain function and can lead to confusion and memory troubles. This includes conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia. About 2.5% of disability claimants belong to this category.

7. Schizophrenia

This category includes not only schizophrenia but also other psychotic conditions that can result in hallucinations or delusions. Only about 1.7% of people who receive disability benefits do so in connection with a condition like this.

8. Intellectual Disabilities

An intellectual disability impacts a person’s ability to acquire, use, and retain new information. Approximately 1% of disability claimants receive benefits because of these disorders. They include conditions like Down syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

9. Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism spectrum disorder affects about 0.5% of SSDI recipients. It can impact someone of any age but generally develops within the first two years of a person’s life. It can affect how the person learns, behaves, and interacts with others.

10. Developmental Disorders

The smallest category of disability benefits recipients is those who suffer from other types of developmental disorders. Only about 0.1% of SSDI beneficiaries have such a condition, which can include cerebral palsy or Tourette syndrome.

Interpreting the Social Security Administration’s Statistics on Disabilities

There is no data available from the Social Security Administration showing how people receive or develop these disabling conditions. Some, such as musculoskeletal and joint injuries, can be personal injuries that result from work or sports activities. Others, like autism or other developmental disorders, may be present in a person from birth.

Taken together, the available information from the Social Security Administration suggests that far more Americans suffer disabling limitations from physical conditions than emotional disturbances. Potentially catastrophic injuries to the bones and joints are the most common type of disability, while those impacting how a person processes information and learns are the least common.

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