Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Job strain as a predictor of disability pension: the Finnish Public Sector Study
  1. S Laine1,
  2. D Gimeno2,
  3. M Virtanen1,
  4. T Oksanen3,
  5. J Vahtera3,
  6. M Elovainio4,
  7. A Koskinen1,
  8. J Pentti3,
  9. M Kivimäki1,2
  1. 1
    Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2
    Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London Medical School, London, UK
  3. 3
    Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Turku, Finland
  4. 4
    National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health, Helsinki, Finland
  1. Ms S Laine, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Topeliuksenkatu 41 a A, FI-00250 Helsinki, Finland; sari.laine{at}


Objective: To examine whether high job strain (a combination of high job demands and low job control) is a risk factor for disability pension.

Setting: Ten municipalities and 21 hospitals in Finland.

Design and participants: A prospective cohort study of 20 386 female and 4 764 male Finnish public sector employees aged 19–50 using data from two surveys (baseline in 2000–2 and follow-up in 2005) and employers’ registers. In addition to self-reported job strain, we computed work unit-aggregated job strain for each participant (the average of scores of all workers of participant’s work unit except the participant him/herself).

Main results: 93 employees (0.4%) retired because of disability during the follow-up. In multilevel logistic regression analysis adjusted for demographic characteristics and health risk behaviour, odds for disability pension was 2.60 (95% CI 1.26 to 5.34) times higher for employees with high self-assessed job strain than for those with low self-assessed job strain at baseline. The corresponding OR for passive job versus low job strain was 2.82 (95% CI 1.34 to 5.96). Analysis of work unit-aggregated scores replicated the association for high job strain, OR 2.25 (95% CI 1.17 to 4.35), but not that for passive job. The association between work unit job strain and disability pension remained significant after further adjustment for prevalent diseases, psychological distress and perceived health status.

Conclusions: Job strain is associated with risk of subsequent disability pension. If causal, this association suggests that organisational interventions to reduce job strain may also reduce early exit from work.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding: This study was supported by the Academy of Finland (projects 105195 and 117604) and the Finnish Work Environment Fund. Data collection was supported by the participating cities and hospitals.

  • Competing interests: None.

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

  • Contributors: All the authors were involved in the conception, design and interpretation of the present study. SL was the guarantor for the paper.