The impact of depressive symptoms on exit from paid employment in Europe: a longitudinal study with 4 years follow-up

Fabio Porru, Alex Burdorf, Suzan J W Robroek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Mental health problems are a risk factor for loss of paid employment. This study investigates (i) the relation between depressive symptoms and different involuntary pathways of labour force exit and (ii) explores gender and geographical differences in this relation.

Methods: The study population consisted of 5263 individuals in paid employment aged between 50 years and the country-specific retirement age from 11 European countries participating in the longitudinal Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Self-reported depressive symptoms at baseline were assessed using the EURO-D. Employment status was derived from interviews after 2 and 4 years. Cox proportional hazards regression analyses were used to investigate the association between depressive symptoms and labour force exit via disability benefit and unemployment. Population attributable fractions (PAFs) were calculated to estimate the contribution of depressive symptoms to these pathways of labour force exit.

Results: Both men and women with a EURO-D score ≥4 had a >2-fold increased risk of a disability benefit (HR: 2.46, 95%CI 1.68-3.60) after adjustment for demographics and work-related characteristics. Among men depressive symptoms elevated the risk of becoming unemployed at follow-up (HR 1.55; 95%CI: 0.94-2.57). The PAF was 0.18 for disability benefit and 0.04 for unemployment, and varied across European regions.

Conclusions: Individuals with depressive symptoms are at increased risk of losing paid employment, which in turn may aggravate their symptoms. Targeting depressive symptoms with public health and occupational policies should be considered to reduce the burden of mental diseases in Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-139
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Research programs

  • EMC NIHES-02-65-02


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