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Emotional demands at work and risk of disability pension: a nationwide cohort study in Denmark.

INTRODUCTION: Working in emotionally demanding jobs is associated with an increased risk of temporarily leaving the labour market due to long-term sickness absence. We tested whether employees working in emotionally demanding jobs are also at higher risk of permanently leaving the labour market due to disability pension compared with employees working in jobs that are not emotionally demanding.

METHODS: We conducted a 10-year cohort study in the workforce in Denmark (n=1 670 825), aged 30-59 years at baseline, by linking job exposure matrices with nationwide registries on social transfer payments and covariates. Using Cox regression, we analysed the risk of disability pension in relation to emotional demands in the full population and sex stratified. Multivariable adjusted models included sex, age, cohabitation, migration background, household disposable income and other work environmental factors (physical workload, influence, possibilities for development and role conflicts).

RESULTS: We identified 67 923 new cases of disability pension during 15 649 743 person-years of follow-up (mean follow-up: 9.4 years). We found an increasing risk of disability pension with higher levels of emotional demands, with HRs of 1.20, 1.23 and 1.73 for medium-low, medium-high and high emotional demands, respectively, compared with low emotional demands in the most adjusted model. There was an exposure-response association in women and a tendency towards an exposure-response association in men.

DISCUSSION: In this nationwide cohort study, we found an increased risk of permanent exit from the labour market due to disability pension in women and men working in emotionally demanding jobs.

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