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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. Sari Laine1,
  3. Marianna Virtanen1,
  4. Tuula Oksanen1,
  5. Aki Koskinen1,
  6. Jaana Pentti1,
  7. Mika Kivimäki2
  1. 1 Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Finland;
  2. 2 University College London, United Kingdom
  1. Correspondence to: Jussi Vahtera, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Lemminkäisenkatu 14-18B, Turku, FIN-20520, Finland; jussi.vahtera{at}


Objective: To examine the association between worktime control and subsequent retirement on health ground (disability pension) among employees.

Methods: A prospective cohort study of 30 700 public sector employees (78% women) aged 18 to 64 at baseline. Two scores of worktime control (self-assessed and co-worker assessed), were obtained from responses to the baseline survey in 2000-2001 (score range 1 to 5). 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 pension (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 the nervous system (6%). A 1 unit increase in self-assessed and co-worker assessed worktime control score was associated with a 41-48% lowering of the risk of disabling musculoskeletal disorders in men and 33-35% lowering in women. This association was robust to adjustment for all 17 baseline covariates (in men and women combined, adjusted hazard ratio 0.76, 95% CI 0.67-0.87 and 0.64, 95% CI 0.51-0.79 per 1 unit increase in self-assessed and co-worker assessed worktime control, respectively).Self-assessed worktime control was also associated with the risk of disability retirement due to mental disorders in women, but this association was not replicated using co-workers' assessment. Disability pensions from other disease categories were not related to control over working times.

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

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