IQ and mental health are vital predictors of work dropout

Low IQ and mental health problems are strong predictors of future disability benefits and early mortality for young men.


By Rune Rolvsjord

Statistician and researcher forsker Stein Atle Lie used data from military enrolment combined with national reimbursement data to investigate if men’s mental health and IQ at the age of 18 to 20 years predicted subsequent employment, health benefits, and early mortality between 20 and 55 years of age. Photo: Uni Research Helse.

This study included 918 888 Norwegian men born between 1950 and 1980. As part of the selection of personnel to the Norwegian military service, all meet one day before a draft board and a military physician for assessments of physical and mental health. 

The military conscription data was merged with national reimbursement data from the Norwegian Welfare and Labour Administration

The men was followed for 16 years from the age of 20 to 55. Risk for health benefits, emigration, and mortality were studied. Indicators of mental health and IQ at military enrolment were used as potential risk factors.Multi-state models were used to analyze transitions between employment, sick leave, time limited benefits, disability benefits, emigration, and mortality.

Young men with severe mental disorders or with intellectual disabilities would not be included in the cohort as they would be too disabled to be considered for military duty.

During follow up, there were a total of 3 908 397 transitions between employment and different health benefits, plus 12 607 deaths. Men with low IQ without any mental health problems at military enrolment, had an increased probability of receiving disability benefits before the age of 35 compared to men with average IQ  and no mental health problems.

For men with both low IQ and mental health problems, there was an excessive probability of receiving disability benefits before the age of 35 , as well as an increased probability for time limited benefits and death before the age of 35 compared to men with average IQ and no mental health problems.

Men having both low IQ and mental health problems spend 5 yearl less at employment compared to the group of men having high IQ and no mental health problem.

A possible implication of the present findings could be to identify those at particularly high risk i.e. those with both low IQ and mental health problems early, and consider intervening on this high-risk group to increase integration into the labour market.

The study is published in Plos One: IQ and mental health are vital predictors of work drop out and early mortality. Multi-state analyses of Norwegian male conscripts.


July 31, 2017, 10:51 a.m.

cp: 2019-12-04 11:17:36