Work disability among young employees : Changes over time and socioeconomic differences

by Hilla Sumanen

Institution: University of Helsinki
Year: 2016
Keywords: kansanterveystiede
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2079252
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/160809


Work disability among young employees is a major risk for future employment and for extending working careers. Current sickness absence and disability retirement rates indicate a rising trend in reported ill health among young adults, but still they are considered a minority in health-related research and further details are lacking. Moreover, socioeconomic differences in work disability are widely recognised among older adults, but studies among younger cohorts are scarce. The aim of this study was to examine changes in sickness absence, and socioeconomic differences in sickness absence and disability retirement among young, 18-34-year-old female and male employees between 2002 and 2013. This research is register-based and is part of the Helsinki Health Study. The City of Helsinki s personnel and sickness absence registers were used to obtain socio-demographic characteristics and individual-level information on sickness absence. Information on education was obtained from Statistics Finland s register of completed education and degrees, and information on disability retirement was derived from the national register of the Finnish Centre for Pensions. Employees under the age of 35 were considered young. Those aged 35-54 comprised the reference group in two of the sub-studies. All appropriately aged members of staff permanently and temporarily employed by the City of Helsinki between 2002 and 2013 were included in the analyses. Annual sickness absence days, overall spells and spells of 1-3, 4-14 and 15+ days, as well as disability retirement events were used as outcome variables. Education was classified on four levels annually according to the highest qualification. Occupational class was assigned to one of four categories on the basis of the job title, and income quartiles were based on the monthly salary. Joinpoint regression modelling, quasi-likelihood Poisson regression, the relative index of inequality (RII) and Cox proportional hazard models were used for the statistical analyses. The results showed an initial increase and then a decrease in sickness-absence trends during the study period of 2002-2013. The turning points were predominantly between 2007 and 2010, depending on the groups under investigation and the length of the sickness absence. Young employees had more short and intermediate spells, but less long sickness absence, than older employees. Education turned out to be the strongest determinant of sickness absence among young employees, and followed a clear gradient. The occupational class differences in short sickness absence spells were not fully consistent in that routine non-manual workers had more than the lowest occupational class, in other words manual workers. Disability retirement due to any cause, and to mental and non-mental causes, followed a clear educational gradient, and mental disorders in particular led to disability retirement among young employees. These young employees had a considerable amount of sickness absence, although the bulk of it was taken in short and intermediate…