Some 70,000 people aged 20-39 were granted early retirement on the grounds of ill health between 2000 and 2006, according to a report from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försåäkringskassan).
The trend reached its peak in 2004, when 13,104 people under 40 were granted the state-funded benefits. The number of people granted early retirement for the first time fell in 2005 and 2006, but remained higher than at the beginning of the century. More women were living on the benefits than men.
The trend brings with it large costs to society, the report claims. Fewer than 2 percent of people in state-funded early retirement return to the job market, it says.
Many of those granted early retirement have often been on long-term sick leave or unemployed. They also have lower levels of educational attainment than the average for their age group. Psychological problems were by far the biggest cause of early retirement.
The number of people granted the benefits because of psychological problems has increased rapidly since 2000. Over the past 20 years the number of people granted early retirement due to anxiety, phobias or stress-related syndromes increased by 3 to 4 times. Depression increased more than ten-fold. Other countries had seen a similar pattern, the report says.
Psychological problems were particularly prevalent among women. Around 3 women out of every 1,000 were now early retired due to psychological problems. In 1990, this figure was below one per thousand.