Top Causes of Disability – Many Of Them Are Preventable


Musculoskeletal disorders and heart diseases remain leading causes of disability in the US. These disabilities could be long-term or short-term disabilities, however, they are also preventable. While some are due to unforeseen circumstances, many are due to unhealthy health choices or preventable accidents.

Becoming disabled will change the life of any individual and impose several restrictions and limitations that would make it difficult to get employed or keep a job. This is why it is important that you know the possible causes of disability and take reasonable steps towards preventing them.

Causes of disability

There are many causes of disability in the US and many of them are not work-related which means that they wouldn’t be covered by workers’ compensation and such individuals would have to opt for Social Security Benefits if their disability prevents them from performing their job or getting a new job.

Those who have individual or group disability insurance would get their benefits on a monthly basis. However, it is better to take measures that will prevent you from becoming disabled by knowing the causes of disability and making the right choices.

Lifestyle choices and personal behavior are major contributing factors to disability which means that many causes of disability are preventable.

Below, you will find the leading causes of disability in the US and how to prevent them.

Musculoskeletal Diseases 

Musculoskeletal Diseases or Musculoskeletal Disorder is a leading cause of injuries that lead to disability and they are considered the single largest category of workplace injuries in the US.

Musculoskeletal Disorders are injuries that affect the human body’s movement (musculoskeletal system). The musculoskeletal system is made up of tendons, muscles, nerves, ligaments, discs, blood vessels, etc.

There are several musculoskeletal disorders like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Ligament Sprain, Tension Neck Syndrome, and Epicondylitis, however, the most common remains Arthritis which is the inflammation of one or more of the joints causing pain and stiffness in the affected area.

Arthritis and other musculoskeletal problems could result in a physical disability that can affect a person’s ability to perform work duties. In severe cases, the affected person would be bound to a wheelchair and unable to use all their body parts properly.

Causes of Musculoskeletal Problems

Musculoskeletal problems can be caused by workloads that exceed the limit of the human body, awkward repetitive postures, poor nutrition, poor health habits, inadequate rest, and poor fitness lifestyle.

How to Prevent Musculoskeletal Problems

Since musculoskeletal problems can be caused by poor lifestyle choices, it would be easy to prevent them by making the right choices. Work-related causes of musculoskeletal problems can be eliminated by adequate exercise, rest, nutrition, and good overall health habits.

Cardiovascular and Circulatory Disease

Cardiovascular and Circulatory Diseases are very common in the U.S and they are not only a leading cause of disability but also a leading cause of death with 1 in every 4 death being caused by one heart disease or another.

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Some heart disease would limit a person’s ability to perform everyday activities and lead to long-term disability. It could also lead to short-term disability for those recovering from treatment.

Causes of Cardiovascular Diseases

Sometimes heart diseases are not caused by the lifestyle choices of the individual and could be due to infections, medication, and genetics. However, factors like smoking, stress, poor hygiene, obesity, diabetics, high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

How to Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases

Lifestyle choices which increase the risk of heart diseases should be changed and improved on. Exercise, adequate rest, proper hygiene, and a proper diet can lower the risk of having a heart disease significantly.

Smoking is another factor that puts you at the risk of having a heart disease due to the presence of chemicals like nicotine and carbon monoxide. Quitting smoking will definitely reduce the chances of you having a heart attack and other heart diseases.


Stroke can lead to physical impairment and in severe cases, the person would lose complete control over their limbs.

Stroke is a situation where blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. The cells of the brain need oxygen in the blood to survive and when that is cut off, they begin to die. When the cells of a particular area of the brain die, the ability controlled by that area is lost.

 Stroke is a leading cause of disability in the U.S and most people who are able to survive stroke have one form of disability or the other.

Causes of Stroke

Just like other causes of disability listed here, lifestyle choices remain a contributing factor to the risk of having a stroke.

Generally, being overweight, drinking and smoking heavily, substance abuse and physical inactivity can increase your chances of having a stroke. Another factor that is increases the risk of having a stroke but is not a lifestyle choice is being aged 55 years or older.

How to Prevent Stroke

Maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking and drinking, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are some ways to prevent stroke. Generally, making the right lifestyle choices should reduce your chances of having a stroke and many other diseases that would lead to a stroke.

Injuries sustained in accidents

Head injury, brain injury, leg injury or back injury due to an accident can lead to mental, intellectual or physical disability depending on the severity of the injury. Accidents were once thought to be a major cause of disability, however, they only account for 10 percent of cases.

Injuries could lead to long-term disability (when it causes a physical or mental impairment) or short-term disability (when the recovery from the injury restricts the person’s ability to perform daily activities).

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Causes of Accidents

Accidents can be caused by a lot of factors, however, most of them are preventable. Car accidents which are quite common can be caused by speeding, drunk driving, night-driving, overtaking, portholes, fogs, and texting while driving.

Home accidents can be caused by trips and falls, falling objects, slips, and so on. Work-related accidents are also very common and could be caused by slips and falls, overexertion, strain and so on.

How to Prevent Accidents

Accidents are one of the easily preventable causes of disability which could be why they account only for a small percent of disability cases. Taking precautionary measures at school, home, work, while driving or performing any activity would reduce the chances of getting involved in an accident.

People who have high-risk jobs have a higher risk of getting injured and being disabled. It is important you desist from high-risk activities if you want to reduce your chances of sustaining an injury that would lead to short-term or long-term disability.


Cancer is a group of diseases that would lead to short-term or long-term disability. There are many types of cancers that affect different body parts and organs.

Some cancers would not lead to total disability, however, the treatment period would count as a short-term disability. Some cancer medications can also lead to complications and result in a heart attack or heart diseases which could lead to a disability.

However, cancer is not among the leading causes of disability as there are effective treatments that can take care of the disease. For most individuals who survive cancer, returning back to work would be challenging due to the side effects of cancer treatment.

Causes of Cancer

There are a lot of things that would cause cancer and some could be out of the control of the individual. Cancers can be caused by environmental, viral or genetic factors.

The gender, age and inherited genetic defects of a person are also risk factors to consider. Exposure to UV radiation, radioactive materials, cancer-causing chemicals and lifestyle factors like alcohol, smoking, substance abuse, poor diet, and physical inactivity can also cause cancer.

How to Prevent Cancer

Although you wouldn’t be able to change your family history or do away with inherited genetic defects, you can prevent cancer by making the right lifestyle choices and protecting yourself from viral and bacterial infections that can cause cancer.

Avoiding too much exposure to sunlight, radiation emitting elements, and other carcinogens can reduce your risk of having cancer. Avoiding smoking, substance abuse and alcohol are also the right lifestyle choices to go for if you want to stay safe.

Your diet, exercise, and daily lifestyle could also impact your risk of developing cancer so you need to make sure you eat properly and exercise daily to reduce the risk.

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Mental Disorders

Mental disorders are not well understood which makes treatment ineffective in some cases. It has become one of the common reasons that people seek Social Security Disability.

The most popular mental illnesses are depression, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, and anxiety. There are more disorders like attention deficit disorder, substance abuse and eating disorders which affect millions of people in the U.S.

Mental disorders make it difficult for people to perform daily activities properly and would also affect their ability to work. Severe mental disorders would make people commit suicide or harm themselves thus making it difficult to be around others.

Causes of Mental Disorder

Mental disorder is mainly caused by psychological, environmental and genetic/biological factors. Generally, people who have suffered child abuse, emotional trauma, sexual abuse, loss of an important person are at a higher risk of having a mental disorder.

Other psychological and environmental factors like low self-esteem, loneliness, anger, anxiety, poor ability to relate with others and neglect would lead to mental disorders. Brain injury or defects, prenatal damage, poor nutrition, exposure to toxic substances can also cause mental disorders.

 How To Prevent Mental Disorder

It might not be possible to prevent mental disorders caused by genetics, brain injury or defects, and prenatal damage, however, psychological and environmental factors that lead to mental disorders can easily be prevented.

When you start noticing signs of a mental illness like depression, you should seek medical care immediately. Most mental disorders that are due to psychological and environmental factors are easily preventable if the right steps are taken.

By speaking with the right medical personnel, you can easily prevent any mental illness from becoming severe and leading to a mental disability.

Nervous System Disorder

Nervous system disorders are leading causes of disability in young adults. These disorders or disease limit movement, thinking and other important mental functions that make it difficult for the affected person to carry out daily activities properly.

In young adults, it could interfere with their ability to perform their duties and lead to job loss. Physical disability due to nervous system disorder could be short-term or long-term and might leave the affected person permanently bound to a wheelchair or requiring the aid of a cane or crutches for mobility.

Where nervous system disorder affects the thinking and memory of the individual, it would be difficult to find a job or keep a job due to the disability. Most people with this condition would turn to Social Security disability benefits as a means of survival.

Causes of Nervous System Disorders

These diseases can be caused by a number of factors like medication, birth defects and complications, mental health problems, injuries to the head and spinal cord, exposure to toxins, brain infections, brain tumor, organ failure, and high blood sugar level.

How to Prevent Nervous System Disorders

Making the right lifestyle choices like avoiding smoking, eating regularly and healthy, getting adequate rest, avoiding substance abuse and excessive consumption of alcohol and developing new skills could help reduce your chances of having nervous system disorders.


There are many other causes of disability like lung and respiratory problems, diabetes, infections, chronic fatigue, and obesity that should be considered and avoided. It is important that you make the right lifestyle choices to reduce your chances of becoming disabled.

You can follow the prevention measures in the article as they will help to prevent some of the most common causes of disability in the US.  

That wraps up this article on the leading causes of disability, you can take up the precautionary measures listed above to reduces your chances of becoming disabled (that is if you have not been living cautiously already).

Do you know any other causes of disability you think we skipped?

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