Education and disability pension: a stronger association than previously found

Scand J Public Health. 2010 Nov;38(7):686-90. doi: 10.1177/1403494810378916. Epub 2010 Aug 13.


Introduction: Although the Norwegian Welfare Law includes rigorous medical criteria for granting disability pensions, several non-medical factors have been shown to be associated with and possible causal factors of pensioning.

Objectives: We analysed the relationship between disability pension and detailed information on educational attainment in different diagnostic groups.

Methods: All ethnic Norwegians aged 18-66 years and alive on 31 December 2003 (n = 2,522,430) were included. Age, sex, the receipt of a disability pension on 31 December 2003, and the diagnosis on the medical certificate were taken from a national social security file. The file also included six levels of education: primary school, low-level secondary school, secondary school, low-level university, university, and research level.

Results: We found a dramatic increase in the prevalence of persons granted disability pension with decreasing years of education across all levels of education. The disparities were much stronger than those seen for other health-related parameters and were especially strong for those with musculoskeletal diagnoses. The disability pension is more a consequence of health problems than a proxy for health status. The demonstrated relationship between education and disability pension may be partly explained by exclusion from the work force because of health-related work problems.

Conclusions: To facilitate a more inclusive working life, attention should be focused on the work place's capacity to include people with different levels of competence and functioning rather than on the health problems of the employees.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disabled Persons* / classification
  • Disabled Persons* / psychology
  • Educational Status*
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Norway
  • Pensions*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Leave
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult