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Employee control over working times and risk of cause-specific disability pension: the Finnish Public Sector Study
  1. Jussi Vahtera1,2,
  2. Sari Laine1,
  3. Marianna Virtanen1,
  4. Tuula Oksanen1,
  5. Aki Koskinen1,
  6. Jaana Pentti3,
  7. Mika Kivimaki1,3
  1. 1Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Department of Public Health, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London Medical School, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Jussi Vahtera, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Lemminkäisenkatu 14-18 B, FI-20520 Turku, Finland; jussi.vahtera{at}


Objective To examine the association between worktime control and subsequent disability pension among employees.

Methods Two scores of worktime control (self-assessed and co-worker assessed) were obtained from a survey in 2000–2001 (score range 1–5) among 30 700 public sector employees (78% women) aged 18–64 years. Information on cause-specific disability pension during follow-up was collected from national registers.

Results During a mean follow-up of 4.4 years, 1178 employees were granted disability pensions (incidence per 1000 person-years: 9.2 in women and 8.7 in men). The most common causes of a disability pension were musculoskeletal disorders (43% of all pensions), mental disorders (25%), tumours (8%) and diseases of the circulatory system (6%) and nervous system (6%). A one unit increase in self-assessed and co-worker assessed worktime control score was associated with a 41–48% decrease in risk of disabling musculoskeletal disorders in men and a 33–35% decrease in women. This association was robust to adjustment for 17 baseline covariates (in men and women combined, adjusted HR 0.76, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.87 and 0.64, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.79 per one unit increase in self-assessed and co-worker assessed worktime control, respectively). Self-assessed, but not co-worker assessed, worktime control was also associated with risk of disability retirement due to mental disorders in women. Disability pensions from other disease categories were not related to worktime control.

Conclusions In these public sector employees, high worktime control was associated with reduced risk of early retirement caused by musculoskeletal disorders independent of baseline characteristics.

  • Epidemiology
  • disability
  • musculoskeletal
  • longitudinal studies
  • retired

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  • Funding This study was supported by the Academy of Finland (projects 117604, 124271, 124322 and 129262), the Social Insurance Institution of Finland and the participating organisations. Mika Kivimäki is supported by the BUPA Foundation, UK, the National Institute on Ageing (R01AG034454-01) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (R01HL036310-20A2), NIH, USA.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.