Many beneficiaries have multiple conditions.
Of the 8.6 million individuals receiving disabled worker benefits at the end of 2011, 32 % had mental impairments as the main disabling condition, or primary diagnosis. They include 4 % with intellectual disability and 28 % with other mental disorders. Musculoskeletal conditions – such as arthritis, back injuries and other disorders of the skeleton and connective tissues – were the main condition for 29 % of the disabled workers. (Musculoskeletal conditions were more common among beneficiaries over the age of 50.) About 9 % had heart disease or other conditions of the circulatory system as their primary diagnosis. Another 9 % had impairments of the nervous system and sense organs. The remaining 21 % include those with injuries, cancers, infectious diseases, metabolic and endocrine diseases, such as diabetes, diseases of the respiratory system and diseases of other body systems.
Attributes of Disabled-Worker Beneficiaries
Disabled-worker beneficiaries are at risk of being poor or near poor. About 34 % of disabled workers versus 13 % of other working age adults have incomes below 125 % of the poverty threshold.
SSDI recipients are also more likely to be older, with the average age of beneficiaries at 53. Within this group, almost seven out of ten are over 50 years old while about three in ten are over 60 years old. Many of them are fatally ill: about one in five male beneficiaries and one in seven female beneficiaries die in the first five years of collecting benefit.
When comparing with other adults, disabled workers are more likely to be black or Hispanic, and to have a lower level of education: about one out of three did not finish high school.