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Sweden Offers Insight In West Virginia Disability Crisis

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Obese workers were more likely to seek disability benefits but workers with heavy physical workloads were even more likely to wind up on disability, a recent study has found.

Researchers looked at nearly four decades of health data on more than 320,000 Swedish construction workers. They found that obese workers were more than one-and-a-half times more likely to wind up on disability than their slimmer peers but that workers with higher physical workloads were more than twice as likely to wind up on disability. (Perhaps naturally, obese construction workers with higher physical workloads were even more likely than that to require disability benefits, the research team found.)

That may seem far afield, but West Virginia suffers from both obesity and strenuous workloads. According to this Gallup survey published last year, West Virginia had the highest obesity rate in the nation, at 37 percent. Coal mining jobs may have declined, but government statistics show that four of West Virginia's top 10 occupations involve physically demanding labor (including coal miners).

If the Swedish researchers are right, it may help explain why nearly one out of every five West Virginian suffers from some kind of disability. It might also help undermine claims from insurance companies and their allies that West Virginians are somehow scamming the system for their disability benefits.

"Comprehensive programs that target health promotion to prevent obesity and ergonomic interventions to reduce physical workload are important to facilitate sustained employment," the Swedish researchers note, dryly. Indeed, it seems, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

We've been pursuing disability benefits claims for decades. If you or a loved needs help navigating the dense bureaucracy of ERISA disability benefits, reach out to our experienced attorneys today.

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