Background: Musculoskeletal diseases are characterized by a high degree of comorbidity with common mental disorders and are a major cause of health-related exclusion from working life. Using a prospective design we aimed to examine the relative importance of physical and mental health-related quality of life as predictors of disability pension due to musculoskeletal diseases.
Methods: A subsample (N = 18,581) born 1953-1957, participated in the The Hordaland Health Study (HUSK) during 1997-1999, and was followed through December 31st 2004. Baseline measures of health-related quality of life were estimated using the Physical (PCS) and Mental Component Summary (MCS) of the Short Form-12 (SF-12). Further information on education, occupation, smoking, physical activity, number of musculoskeletal pain sites and BMI were provided by questionnaires and health examination. The association between self-perceived physical and mental health and subsequent disability pension, obtained from the national database of health and social benefits was estimated using Cox regression analyses.
Results: Participants reporting poor physical health (quartile 1) had a marked increased risk for disability pension due to musculoskeletal diseases (age and gender-adjusted hazard ratio = 22.1, 95% CI = 12.5-39.0) compared with those reporting good/somewhat good physical health (quartiles 4 and 3 combined). Adjustment for socioeconomic status and lifestyle factors slightly attenuated the association (hazard ratio = 16.7), and adding number of reported pain sites weakened the association even more (hazard ratio = 7.1, 95% CI = 3.8-12.8). Also, participants reporting poor mental health had a higher risk for disability pension due to musculoskeletal diseases (age and gender adjusted hazard ratio = 1.8, 95% CI = 1.3-2.6); however, in the final model the risk was not statistically significant.
Conclusions: The physical component in health-related quality of life (SF-12) was a strong predictor of disability pension due to musculoskeletal diseases, whereas the mental component played a less prominent role.