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Low control in work and job strains among key risk factors for disability retirement

Knardahl S, Johannessen HA, Sterud T, et al.  The contribution from psychological, social, and organizational work factors to risk of disability retirement: A systematic review with meta-analyses.  BMC Public Health. 2017 Feb.

Review question

Which psychological task-level, social interaction, and organizational work factors contribute to retirement due to disability?


Extending the working life is increasingly important for sustaining the welfare of populations and economies. Disabilities that result in early exit from working life incur large production losses, large compensation costs, and challenges to the quality of life of individuals.

A large body of evidence has indicated that psychological and social factors may contribute to health and disease (most studies examining how mental strain results from the interaction of job demands and decision latitude).

This study aimed to assess what psychological, social, and organizational factors contribute to disability retirement.

How the review was done

A detailed search of Medline, Embase and PsycInfo for studies published up to April 23, 2015 was conducted. Studies that addressed risk of retirement due to disability from any organizational, psychological, and social exposure pertaining to work were included.

A total of 19,545 studies were identified in searches, and 39 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

This review was funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and by the respective institutions of the authors.

What the researchers found

There was moderate evidence for the role of low control in work situations and job strain on disability retirement.

There was limited evidence that downsizing, organizational change, work demanding attention and concentration, lack of employee development and supplementary training, repetitive work tasks, low rewards, and effort-rewards imbalance were predictors of disability. More research is needed to confirm these findings.

There was very limited evidence that general job demands, evening or night work, and low social support from one’s superior predicted disability retirement.


This review found that managers and leaders need to intensify their efforts to increase employee decision authority and autonomy, especially for those with high levels of job strain. Additionally, the authors recommended that managers and leaders should be cognizant of processes that may facilitate disability during periods of downsizing and organizational change. Almost all studies were conducted with Nordic populations, which may reduce the generalizability outside these populations.


Related Topics


Risk factors
Aspects making a condition more likely.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

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