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Common Causes of Disability: Cancer & Depression/Anxiety

According to the website, Americans have a one in three chance of becoming disabled before they retire. Common causes of disability include:

  • Arthritis and other musculoskeletal problems
  • Back pain
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Diabetes

Our next few blog posts will provide more detail about each of these conditions.


The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 1,658,370 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2015. The ACS projections show that 589,430 are expected to die. Although this seems like a large number, the overall death rate for most cancers is declining. Looked at another way, the five-year survival rate is growing. In 1975, 49 percent of people diagnosed with cancer survived five years. In the years 2004-2010, it grew to 68 percent. The change means that many more people are living with cancer. In January 2014, the ACS estimated that a total of 14.5 million people in the U.S. had received a diagnosis of some type of cancer.

Treatment for cancer varies, depending on where the cancer is and whether it has spread. Some types of treatments themselves can be very disabling, although this is usually limited to the period of treatment and the days or weeks immediately following. Chemotherapy and other types of drug therapy can cause significant symptoms that mimic illness. Surgery sometimes requires significant recuperation. Although many more people live longer with cancer, it is usually life-changing in one way or another.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression or anxiety affects one in 10 American s at some point in their lives. The number of people being treated for depression has increased significantly in recent years, but according to, over 80 percent of people with symptoms of depression are receiving treatment.

The incidence of depression is higher in some Southern states. Overall, 121 million people around the world suffer from depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 14.8 million Americans, or about 6.7 percent of adults, experience a major depressive episode in a given year. This is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.

Types of depression and anxiety include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder

Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression. People with depression are four times more likely to have heart attacks. Individuals with significant illnesses are also far more likely to suffer from depression. Although treatment can help many people, for others, depression is an intractable condition that limits the ability to live fully.

Contact an SSD Advocate

If cancer, depression or anxiety leave you unable to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. To learn more, contact Binder & Binder®, America's most successful SSD advocates.

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