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The association between mental disorders and subsequent years of working life: a Danish population-based cohort study

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BACKGROUND: Mental disorders can affect workforce participation via a range of mechanisms. In this study, we aimed to estimate the association between different types of mental disorders and working years lost, defined as the number of years not actively working or enrolled in an educational programme.

METHODS: In this population-based cohort study, we included all people aged 18-65 years (mean 38·0 [SD 13·9]) in the Danish Civil Registration System from Jan 1, 1995 to Dec 31, 2016. Information on mental disorders was obtained from the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register and information on labour market characteristics was obtained from administrative registers. Follow-up started at age 18 years, immigration to Denmark, or on Jan 1, 1995, whichever came later; and it ended at age 65 years, death, emigration from Denmark, disability pension, voluntary early retirement, or Dec 31, 2016 (whichever came earlier). As the main outcome, we estimated working years lost for those diagnosed with any mental disorder and 24 types of mental disorders, as well as for the general population of same age and sex. We decomposed total working years lost into periods of unemployment or sick leave, disability pension, voluntary early retirement, or death. Data on ethnicity were not available through administrative registers.

FINDINGS: A total of 5 163 321 individuals, 2 642 383 men and 2 520 938 women, were followed up for 65·4 million person-years. Overall, 488 775 (9·47%) individuals were diagnosed with a mental disorder. On average, individuals with mental disorders lost an additional 10·52 (95% CI 10·48-10·57) years of working life compared with the general Danish population. Receiving a disability pension (7·54 [7·49-7·59] years) and longer periods of unemployment (2·24 [2·21-2·27] years) accounted for most of this difference.

INTERPRETATION: Our findings foreground the substantial impact of mental disorders on workforce participation. There is a need to invest in programmes that reduce the burden of working years lost and assist people with mental disorders in returning to the workforce.

FUNDING: Lundbeck Foundation and Danish National Research Foundation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Lancet Psychiatry
Volume10
Issue1
Pages (from-to)30-39
Number of pages10
ISSN2215-0366
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

    Research areas

  • Adolescent, Aged, Cohort Studies, Denmark/epidemiology, Female, Humans, Male, Mental Disorders/epidemiology, Registries, Sick Leave

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