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There have been “skyrocketing increases” in obesity and skin cancer claims over the past two decades, according to a study by Cigna Corp.
Bloomfield, Connecticut-based Cigna released its 20-year disability study on Monday. Based on an analysis of 1.56 million short-term disability claims from 1993 to 2012, the study found that claims related to obesity increased by 3,300% in that period. Making up 0.04% of claims in 1993, obesity ranked No. 173 on a list of 267 diagnostic drivers of absence that year. It landed at No. 40 on the list in 2012, making up 0.7% of claims.
“If you think about obesity and the wear and tear that condition has on the extremities and knees, for example, it drives the occurrence of conditions that ultimately lead people to have knee replacements and so forth,” Dr. Robert Anfield, chief medical officer for Cigna's disability insurance unit, said Friday.
Employers can help their employees prevent and overcome obesity by encouraging a healthy lifestyle through disease management programs and educational programs, Dr. Anfield said.
The study also found that claims related to skin cancer increased more than 300% in the same 20-year period. In 1993, skin cancer was No. 91 on the list of diagnostic drivers of absence and made up 0.2% of claims. By 2012, it had moved up to No. 27 on the list and made up 0.9% of claims.
“What's driving that is, No. 1, the popularity of tanning and going to tanning salons … (which) is seen mostly in younger adults,” Dr. Anfield said. “The other driver is at the other end of the age spectrum. People who spent a lifetime in the sun or at the beach have developed … skin cancer later in life.”
Major depressive disorder continues to be the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for workers between 15 and 44. Disability claims and overall absence related to depression, however, have decreased since 1993, and antidepressant use has increased, perhaps signaling that medical advancements are having a positive effect on absence, the study states.
“As employers increase their focus on managing lost work time, they need to understand how disability is changing and what opportunities they may have to intervene and improve experience,” Thomas Parry, president and chief executive officer of Integrated Benefits Institute, said in a statement accompanying the Cigna study.