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Drinking habits and disability retirement


Correspondence to: Aino Salonsalmi, Hjelt Institute, Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, PO Box 41 (Mannerheimintie 172), 00014 University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. E-mail:



To examine associations between drinking habits and disability retirement, and to determine whether the associations differ between all-cause disability retirement and the main causes of disability retirement, i.e. musculoskeletal diseases and mental disorders.


A prospective cohort study with a mean follow-up time of 8 years.


Middle-aged employees of the City of Helsinki, Finland.


A total of 6275 municipal employees (78% women) who were 40–60 years old at baseline.


Data on drinking habits, i.e. quantity and frequency of drinking, binge drinking and problem drinking, were derived from the baseline questionnaire. The data on disability retirement and its diagnoses came from the Finnish Centre for Pensions. The analyses were made using Cox regression analysis.


Heavy average and frequent drinking were not associated with all-cause disability retirement, but increased the risk of disability retirement due to mental disorders even after adjusting for all covariates [hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) 2.54 (1.26–5.12) and 2.10 (1.23–3.61), respectively]. Binge and problem drinking were both associated with all-cause disability retirement in the base models adjusted for age, gender and marital status. Problem drinking more than doubled the risk of disability retirement due to mental disorders even after all adjustments (HR 2.17, CI 1.53–3.08). Non-drinkers had an increased risk for disability retirement due to all mental and musculoskeletal diagnoses.


Adverse drinking habits may contribute to disability retirement among the middle-aged working population. Tackling unhealthy drinking habits may lessen the likelihood of early retirement due to poor mental health.

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