Disability Pension with Special Reference to Sick Leave Track Record, Health Effects, Health Care Utilisation and Survival : A Population-based Study

Abstract: Background. In Sweden 10 percent (550,000) of the labour force, aged 18 to 65 years are disability pensioners and about four percent are on sick leave. The knowledge of the course from healthy individual to disability pensioner is not well known and was the theme of this thesis. Objectives, Material and Methods. The aims of the thesis were to follow the study population regarding sickness absence, health care utilisation, quality of life, and survival. Population based data including 14,538 women and men from three cities in Sweden were used, of whom 1,952 were granted a disability pension at baseline or received one during follow up. Register data, including sickness spells, health care utilisation, and mortality data during 30 years of follow up, and questionnaire data including socio-economic and quality of life data were used. Results. The most powerful determinant for being granted a disability pension was cumulative annual sick leave days, more powerful than all other tested determinants together. The degree of explanation for all determinants combined was 96%. Health care utilisation among disability pensioners continued to be high also after disability pension, 2.3 times higher for hospital admissions and 8 times higher for primary health case appointments than among referents. Disability pensioners had lower quality of life than non-pensioners and old age pensioners. For those who became disability pensioners after the baseline measurements quality of life measures decreased progressively until disability pension was granted and were then stabilised on a low level. During follow up 525 (7.6%) subjects died. Compared with subjects who did not become disability pensioners the hazards ratio was 2.78 among women and 3.43 among men, even when the effect of a number of other outcome affecting variables were taken into account. The mortality differences were not explained by underlying disease. Conclusions. The risk of disability pension may be predicted but only late in the course of events. Disability pensioners continue to have a high level of health care utilisation, and have a worse quality of life development and a higher mortality rate than non-pensioners. Given the unfavourable outcome of disability pension, other means of managing the reduced work capacity might be considered.