Sickness absence with low-back, shoulder, or neck diagnoses: an 11-year follow-up regarding gender differences in sickness absence and disability pension

Work. 2005;25(2):115-24.


Background: There is very little knowledge on the long-term outcomes of sickness absence. The aim was to investigate sickness absence and disability pensions over 11 years in a cohort of young persons initially long-term sick listed with back, neck, or shoulder diagnoses.

Method: A prospective population-based cohort study of all 213 individuals in the Municipality of Linköping, Sweden, who in 1985 were aged 25-34 and had at least one new sick-leave spell > 28 days with such diagnoses.

Main results: More women (61%) than men fulfilled the inclusion criteria. In 1996, 22% of the cohort (14% of the men, 26% of the women) had been granted disability pension; 76% of these individuals with musculoskeletal and the rest with psychiatric diagnoses. Partial disability pension was granted to 59% of the women, 17% of the men. Women were more often granted temporary disability pension than men.

Conclusions: This proved to be a high-risk group for disability pension. There were large and somewhat unexpected gender differences regarding incidence and type of disability pension. It has been debated how soon physicians should be concerned about the risk of long-term disability regarding these diagnoses; at four or eight weeks of sickness absence - our results support the former, at least for women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / economics*
  • Pensions*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors*
  • Sick Leave / economics*
  • Sweden
  • Time Factors