We explored occupational class differences in disability retirement trends accounting for structural changes in the workforce induced by the recent economic crisis and the following economic stagnation. Using nationwide register data on the general Finnish population aged 30–59 years, we examined trends in disability retirement due to all causes, musculoskeletal diseases, and mental disorders in 2007, 2010, and 2013. Applying propensity score (PS) matching to control for bias induced by structural changes in the workforce over time, we obtained 885,807 matched triplets. In the original study population, all-cause and cause-specific disability retirement declined between 2007 and 2013 for most occupational classes. In the matched study population, the disability retirement among skilled and unskilled manual workers sharply increased in 2010 and then declined in 2013. PS matching considerably attenuated the decline in disability retirement, particularly between the years 2007 and 2010. In general, the differences in disability retirement between both skilled and unskilled manual workers and upper-level non-manual employees widened during the period of economic stagnation. In occupational epidemiology, structural changes in the workforce should be accounted for when analysing trends in ill-health. Controlling for these changes revealed widening occupational class differences in disability retirement during the period of economic stagnation.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2019, 16(9), 1523.