Has the share of the working life expectancy that is spent receiving a partial or full disability pension changed in Finland over the period 2005-2018? A longitudinal register-based study

BMJ Open. 2022 Jul 14;12(7):e061085. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-061085.


Objectives: The share of the overall working careers that is spent receiving disability benefits is unclear. We examined trends in full-time equivalent working life expectancy (FTE-WLE) among those with and without receiving a permanent full or partial disability pension in Finland, where certain amounts of work are allowed while receiving these pensions.

Design: Longitudinal register-based study.

Setting: Finnish population.

Participants: Nationally representative 70% samples of the working-age population.

Outcome: Using the Sullivan method, we examined annual FTE-WLE at age 45, truncated at age 63, in 2005-2018 by disability pension status. Full-time equivalent work participation was based on combined information on annual employment days and work income.

Results: Compared with those with no disability pension, disability pensioners had a larger relative (full and partial pensioners of both genders) and absolute (male partial pensioners) increase in the FTE-WLE between 2005 and 2018. In 2018, the FTE-WLE of both male and female full disability pensioners was around 3.5 months, being 6 months at its highest in musculoskeletal diseases. The FTE-WLE of partial disability pensioners was around 6.5 and 8 years among men and women, respectively, being around half of the corresponding expectancies of non-pensioners. The FTE-WLE of partial disability pensioners was considerable in musculoskeletal diseases and mental disorders and even higher in other diseases. Full disability pensioners spent a disproportionately large time in manual work, increasingly in the private sector, and partial pensioners in the public sector with lower non-manual and manual work, increasingly with the former. At the population level, the share of the FTE-WLE that is spent receiving a disability pension remained relatively small.

Conclusions: Increased work participation while receiving a disability pension is likely to have had important implications for prolonging individual working careers but only minor contribution to the length of working lives at the population level.

Keywords: epidemiology; occupational & industrial medicine; public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Disabled Persons*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Pensions