Aims: This study investigates whether conditions present or established in youth and adolescence among young men contribute to the differences in the risk of an early disability pension (DP) among social classes.
Methods: The study is based on data from a nationwide survey of the 49,285 Swedish males born between 1949 and 1951 who were conscripted into military service between 1969 and 1970. Data on socioeconomic groups were based on information of occupation and educational level reported in the census of 1975 held by Statistics Sweden. Potential psychosocial and behavioural risk factors were linked to records from the Swedish Social Insurance Board up until 1993. The analyses were based upon those 33,609 conscripts with information on all background variables who reported an occupation and who were not granted a DP in 1975.
Results: The strongest social class difference in the distribution of risk indicators was found for low ranking on the psychometric tests and for having been in a remedial class. In the univariate analyses, the highest odds ratios were noted for unskilled manual workers. In the multivariate model, with all the background variables included, the increased risk ratios for lower socioeconomic groups decreased considerably for a DP irrespective of diagnosis, and diminished for a DP with an alcohol-related diagnosis.
Conclusion: It is concluded that conditions present or established in youth and adolescence are of major importance to understand the strong social class gradient in disability pensions among young men. It is suggested that the increased risks for skilled and unskilled manual workers compared with non-manual employees might be interpreted according to the concept of unfavourable life careers.