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Study examines common risk factors for disability applicants

According to a new study, familial factors such as genetics and childhood environment do not significantly affect the likelihood that a person will eventually receive Social Security Disability benefits, medical leave, or a similar program. Instead, lifestyle factors such as marital status, education level, residence and age are better predictors of whether a person will apply for disability benefits of any kind.

The study was completed through an analysis of more than 50,000 twins in Sweden born between 1952 and 1958. The utilization of twins allowed researchers to control for familial and genetic factors that affect health and the receipt of SSD benefits.

When the researchers revisited the twins between 1992 and 2007, the average percentage of study participants receiving disability benefits of some kind was about 10.7 percent each year. However, genetic and familial factors did not seem to play a significant part in whether the twins received disability benefits.

Age was the highest predictor for the receipt of disability, as could be expected. After that, education levels and marital status were found to be the highest risk factors for disability benefits. Specifically, disability benefit rates were about five times higher for study participants with lower levels education, and about two times higher for unmarried participants. Marital status was a greater predictor of disability for men than women, possibly because unmarried men are statistically more likely to be in worse health than unmarried women or married men.

In addition, residence was also found to be a predictor. Participants who lived in a semi-rural or rural area were more likely to receive disability benefits.

Source: ScienceDaily, "Familial Factors Don't Affect Disability Risk," Jan. 12, 2012

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