Worklife expectancy in a cohort of Danish employees aged 55-65 years: Comparing a multi-state Cox proportional hazard approach with conventional multi-state life tables

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Background: Work life expectancy (WLE) expresses the expected time a person will remain in the labor market until he or she retires. This paper compares a life table approach to estimating WLE to an approach based on multi-state proportional hazards models. The two methods are used to estimate WLE in Danish members and non-members of an early retirement pensioning (ERP) scheme according to levels of health. Methods: In 2008, data on self-rated health (SRH) was collected from 5212 employees 55-65 years of age. Data on previous and subsequent long-term sickness absence, unemployment, returning to work, and disability pension was collected from national registers. WLE was estimated from multi-state life tables and through multi-state models. Results: Results from the multi-state model approach agreed with the life table approach but provided narrower confidence intervals for small groups. The shortest WLE was seen for employees with poor SRH and ERP membership while the longest WLE was seen for those with good SRH and no ERP membership. Employees aged 55-56 years with poor SRH but no ERP membership had shorter WLE than employees with good SRH and ERP membership. Relative WLE reversed for the two groups after age 57. At age 55, employees with poor SRH could be expected to spend approximately 12 months on long-term sick leave and 9-10 months unemployed before they retired - regardless of ERP membership. ERP members with poor SRH could be expected to spend 4.6 years working, while non-members could be expected to spend 7.1 years working. Conclusion: WLE estimated through multi-state models provided an effective way to summarize complex data on labor market affiliation. WLE differed noticeably between members and non-members of the ERP scheme. It has been hypothesized that while ERP membership would prompt some employees to retire earlier than they would have done otherwise, this effect would be partly offset by reduced time spent on long-term sick leave or unemployment. Our data showed no indication of such an effect, but this could be due to residual confounding and self-selection of people with poor health into the ERP scheme.

Original languageEnglish
Article number879
JournalBMC Public Health
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2017

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