The economic impact of early retirement attributed to rheumatic diseases: results from a nationwide population-based epidemiologic study

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Objectives: To measure early retirement due to self-reported rheumatic diseases (RDs) and to estimate the respective indirect costs and years of working life lost (YWLL).

Methods: We used individual level data from the national, cross-sectional, population based EpiReumaPt study (September 2011 December 2013) where 10,661 inhabitants were randomly surveyed in order to capture and characterize all cases of RD within a representative sample of the Portuguese population. In this analysis, we used all participants aged between 50 and 64 years, near the official retirement age. A national database was used to calculate productivity values by gender, age and region, using the human capital approach. YWLL were estimated as the difference between each participant's current age and the respective retirement age, while the potential years of working life lost (PYWLL) were given by the difference between official and actual retirement ages. We also calculated the percentage of time in inactivity (inactivity ratio = YWLL/Active age-range [15-64 years old]).

Results: 29.9% of the Portuguese population with ages between 50 and 64 years were retired with 13.1% self-reporting retirement due to RD. The estimated annual indirect cost following premature retirement attributed to RD was (sic)910 million ((sic)555 per capita; (sic)1625 per self-reported RD patient and (sic)13,592 per early retiree due to RD). Females contributed with 84% for these costs ((sic)766 million; (sic)882 per capita vs (sic)187 from males). We observed a total number of 389,939 accumulated YWLL (228 per 1000 inhabitants) and 684,960 PYWLL (401 per 1000 inhabitants). The mean YWLL and PYWLL inactivity ratios were 12% and 21%, respectively. RD patients with higher values of disability have the highest risk of early retirement.

Conclusions: Early retirement attributed to self-reported RD amounts to approximately 0.5% of the national gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, due to large YWLL. Both the public health concern and the economic impact highlight the need to prioritize investments in health and social protection policies targeting patients with rheumatic conditions. (C) 2016 The Royal Society for Public Health. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-162
Number of pages12
JournalPublic Health
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • Early retirement
  • Exit from paid work
  • Years of working life lost
  • Work disability
  • Rheumatic diseases
  • Epidemiologic study
  • Population-based survey


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