Background There is some evidence linking sub-optimal prenatal development to an increased risk of disability pension (DP). Our aim was to investigate whether body size at birth was associated with transitioning into all-cause and cause-specific DP during the adult work career. Methods 10 682 people born in 1934-44 belonging to the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study had data on birth weight extracted from birth records, and on time, type and reason of retirement between1971 and 2011 extracted from the Finnish Centre for Pensions. Results Altogether 21.3% transitioned into DP during the 40-year follow-up, mainly due to mental disorders, musculoskeletal disorders and cardiovascular disease. Average age of transitioning into DP was 51.3 (SD 8.4) for men and 52.2 (SD 7.6) for women. Cohort members who did not transition into DP retired 10 years later on average. Among men, higher birth weight was associated with a lower hazard of transitioning into DP, adjusted hazard ratio (HR) being 0.94 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.88-0.99 for 1 SD increase in birth weight). For DP due to mental disorders the adjusted HR was 0.90, 95% CI 0.81, 0.99. A similar but non-significant trend was found for DP due to cardiovascular disease. Among women there were no associations between body size at birth and all-cause DP (p for interaction gender birth weight on DP p = 0.007). Conclusions Among men disability pension, particularly due to mental disorders, may have its origins in prenatal development. Given that those who retire due to mental health problems are relatively young, the loss to the workforce is substantial.
Von Bondorff, M. B., Törmäkangas, T., Salonen, M., Von Bonsdorff, M. E., Osmond, C., Kajantie, E., & Eriksson, J. G. (2015). Early life origins of all-cause and cause-specific disability pension: Findings from the Helsinki birth cohort study. PLoS ONE, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0122134