Young adults on disability benefits in 7 countries

Scand J Public Health. 2013 Nov;41(12 Suppl):3-26. doi: 10.1177/1403494813496931.


Background: This article, based on a study by the Swedish Social Insurance Inspectorate, describes the development of young adults receiving disability benefits due to reduced working capability, and the disability benefit systems in seven European countries; Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK. This comparative study mainly uses Sweden as a benchmark.

Methods: Apart from a documentary and legal data collection and analysis, 26 semi-structured interviews were conducted with representatives of the responsible ministries and authorities in the studied countries. In addition, national and European data was collected.

Results: There is an increasing trend of young adults, aged 19-29, on disability benefits in all studied countries. The most common diagnosis group among young adults on disability benefits is mental and behavioural disorders, ranging from 58% in the UK to 80% in Denmark.

Conclusions: The comparison of the different disability benefit systems shows that there are relatively large national differences in terms of rules and regulations, the handling of disability benefit cases, and offered rehabilitation activities and other measures to support young adults on disability benefits to strengthen their working capability, and hence enable them to approach the labour market in the future. However, it is clear that these countries face similar challenges, and therefore there could be a lot to learn from European exchange of experiences and expertise in this area. This article identifies a number of measures of special interest to study and discusses further with regard to the further development of the Swedish system for disability benefits for young adults.

Keywords: Denmark; Finland; Iceland; Norway; Sweden; UK; disability benefits; disability pension; working capability; young adults.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Disability / statistics & numerical data*
  • Insurance, Disability / trends
  • Male
  • Young Adult