Objective: Mental illnesses are consistently underrecognized and undertreated, leading to underestimations of the societal burden of mental illness as a contributor to disability benefit expenditures. This study examined the extent of undertreatment before disability pensions for mental illness were awarded.
Methods: Norwegian National Insurance Administration data were linked to data from the HUNT-2 study, a population-based health survey, and 403 persons awarded a disability pension for mental illness in the five years before the health survey were identified. The extent of help seeking for any mental illness before the pension was awarded was examined.
Results: Of the 403 adults who were pensioned out of the workforce for a disability involving mental illness, 128 (32%, 95% confidence interval=27%-36%) reported never having sought help for any mental health problem.
Conclusions: Although self-report of receipt of treatment is a limitation of the study, the results suggest a potential for preventing permanent work-related disability through improved access to effective treatment.