X-ray showing steoarthritis in the knees (Image: iStock)

Group disability insurers may, possibly, be getting a little relief from claims related to back pain and joint problems.

Back pain and joint problems accounted for 22% of Unum’s group long-term disability (LTD) insurance claims in 2017. That’s down from a 22.5% share of Unum group LTD claims in 2016, and down from a 23.1% share in 2015.

Unum provides group disability coverage for more U.S. workers than any other carrier. The Chattanooga, Tennessee-based insurer included the 2017 figures in a new analysis of its group disability claim data. Unum prepares the disability claim cause analysis every year in May, to help support the disability insurance community’s annual Disability Insurance Awareness Month campaign.

(Related: Maybe Employers Are Ready to Be Aware of Disability Insurance)

Greg Breter, a senior vice president at Unum, said in a statement accompanying the new analysis that the company has seen a big increase in the incidence of group disability claims related to back and joint disorders in the past 10 years.

Since 2007, for example, the number of musculoskeletal Unum group LTD claims has increased 41%. The number of joint disorder group LTD claims has increased 24%.

“The spike in joint disorders and musculoskeletal issues is especially prominent among baby boomers, who make up over half of all long-term disability claims,” Breter said.

The decrease in the share of group LTD claims arising from joint and musculoskeletal over the past two years could be the result of factors such as changes in claim review procedures and standards; shifts in the job market, and in employer willingness to help workers stay on the job; improvements in medical care for people with back, joint and bone problems; and the effects of employers’ wellness and chronic condition management programs.

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