Aims: Socioeconomic inequalities in disability pensioning are well established, but we know little about the causes. The main aim of this study was to disentangle educational inequalities in disability pensioning in Norwegian women and men.
Methods: The baseline data consisted of 32,948 participants in the Norwegian Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (1995-97), 25-66 years old, without disability pension, and in paid work. Additional analyses were made for housewives and unemployed/laid-off persons. Information on the occurrence of disability pension was obtained from the National Insurance Administration database up to 2008. Data analyses were performed using Cox regression.
Results: We found considerable educational inequalities in disability pensioning, and the incidence proportion by 2008 was higher in women (25-49 years 11%, 50-66 years 30%) than men (25-49 years 6%, 50-66 years 24%). Long-standing limiting illness and occupational, psychosocial, and behavioural factors were not sufficient to explain the educational inequalities: young men with primary education had a hazard ratio of 3.1 (95% CI 2.3-4.3) compared to young men with tertiary education. The corresponding numbers for young women were 2.7 (2.1-3.1). We found small educational inequalities in the oldest women in paid work and no inequalities in the oldest unemployed/laid-off women and housewives.
Conclusions: Illness and occupational, psychosocial, and behavioural factors explained some of the educational inequalities in disability pensioning. However, considerable inequalities remain after accounting for these factors. The higher incidence of disability pensioning in women than men and the small or non-existing educational inequalities in the oldest women calls for a gender perspective in future research.