Climate change will impact several conditions that regularly appear in employers’ short-term disability insurance policies. Over time, this could exacerbate the economic burden of disease borne by workers who lose wages, employers that miss out on the product of absent employees’ labor, private disability insurers, and public safety net providers.

  • Overall, about 1 in 20 U.S. employees with short-term, non-occupational disability insurance had a claim for leave in any given year.
  • Collectively, anxiety disorders, acute stress reaction, adjustment reaction, depression and other mood disorders, ischemic heart disease, heart failure, cerebrovascular disease, respiratory infections, upper respiratory disease, pneumonia, and asthma/COPD and related comprised about 1 in 7 claims for short-term, non-occupational disability leaves.
  • Claims activity varies from state to state. The greatest variation in claims for specific climate-impacted diagnoses was observed for acute stress reaction, which ranged from 3.9 claims per 100,000 covered lives in Alaska to 50.9/100,000 in Rhode Island (mean = 15.5, SD = 7.8). At the other end of the variation spectrum, claims per 100,000 for cerebrovascular disease ranged from 25.5 in Montana to 73.6 in Mississippi (mean = 48.7, SD = 10.5).

For discussion: Climate change has the potential to exacerbate a substantial portion of the current disability leave burden, resulting in lost income for workers and lost productivity for employers and society-at-large. Initiatives to address and prepare for climate change could help mitigate losses. While the current descriptive analysis shows variation in the geographic distribution of claim diagnoses, a closer analysis of changes in leave rates for specific diagnoses following localized extreme weather events—such as heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and flooding—is warranted.