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Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the process of disability retirement

The research findings of the new study clarify the complex process and the risk factors of work disability. The Finnish research group found a moderate genetic contribution to the variation of disability retirement.

No previous studies on the effect of genetic factors on the liability to disability retirement have been carried out. In the new research published today in the online peer-reviewed scientific journal PLoS ONE, a moderate genetic contribution to the variation of disability retirement due to any medical cause was found.

This 30-year follow-up study of 24 000 Finnish twins shows that genetic factors explained 36% of the variation in disability retirement due to any medical cause. The heritability estimate for disability pensions (DPs) due to other mental disorders than depression was 42%, due to musculoskeletal disorders 37% and due to cardiovascular diseases 48% indicating the importance of both genetic factors and different environmental exposures in the process of disability retirement.

Childhood environmental factors showed important effect on disability retirement due to depressive disorders

Interestingly, familial aggregation in DPs due to depressive disorders was best explained by the common environmental factors (28%) highlighting the important impact of early childhood environment on the development of depressive disorders and the risk of work disability in adulthood. However, the environmental factors not shared with family members showed increasing influence with increasing age at onset of disability retirement.

The novel scientific results of this study on the contribution of genetic factors to disability retirement, and insights from further studies on the complex gene-environment interactions and associations on the process of disability retirement during the life course, provide better focused tools for planning strategies to prevent work incapacity and early retirement among employees.

Paivi Lehtinen | alfa
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