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Soc Sci Med. 2019 Sep 27;240:112576. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112576. [Epub ahead of print]

In sickness or in health? Register-based evidence on partners' mutual receipt of sickness allowance and disability pension.

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Åbo Akademi University, Finland. Electronic address:
Lund University, Sweden. Electronic address:
Stockholm University, Sweden. Electronic address:


Studies on partners' mutual receipt of benefits constitute a growing research field in the way individual health and health-related decisions depend on social relations. This paper provides the first study on the mutual receipt of sickness allowance. We analysed married and cohabiting couples' receipt of sickness allowance and disability pension by estimating discrete-time hazard models for individuals aged 40-65 years, using longitudinal register data from Finland. The data cover the period 1987-2011, and allowed us to explore socioeconomic and demographic variables at both the individual and couple level. We found strong and long-term interrelations in receipt behaviour and dependencies across benefit types. The risk of receiving sickness allowance increases by 50 per cent during the first years after the partner's first receipt of the same benefit, while the risk of receiving disability pension is twice as high even five years after the partner's receipt of the same. Women appear to be more instrumental than men in the production of health within the couple, even in a context of high level of state support, gender equality and female labour force participation. Their receipt of disability pension is more related to the male partner's receipt than vice versa. For sickness allowance receipt, the gender asymmetry is small. Mutual benefit receipt of benefits may relate not only to collateral health effects but also to shared preferences and partner selection. We cannot distinguish between the mechanisms. However, couples with more economic and social resources seem to be more efficient in joint decision making. Correlations are particularly strong in the immediate term, and for couples who are highly educated, for those with high income, and for those with children in the household. More effective policies may be needed to equalise information regarding benefits, and monitor the use, and potential misuse, of these health benefits.


Benefit receipt; Collateral health; Couples; Disability pension; Finland; Gender roles; Register data; Sickness allowance

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