This study aimed to establish prevalence levels of disability pensions among stroke patients within a national population.
From a Danish National register of hospitalizations, 72 673 patients were identified who had a discharge diagnosis of stroke between the years 1979-1993 inclusive and were of pensionable age during that period. These patients were then screened in registers for death during the period 1979-1993 and for the award of disability pensions between the years 1979-1995. A total of 19476 (27%) patients had received a pension at some level.
Being in possession of a disability pension prior to stroke (n = 8565, 12%), rarely at the highest level, was not associated with elevated risk for stroke, or with elevated stroke mortality. It was, however, associated with a greater mortality subsequent to stroke. Disability pensions awarded following stroke (n = 10564, 15%), often at the highest level, were awarded equally to males and females in all age groups, but most commonly (ca 50%) at age 50-59. Disability pensions awards were also strongly related to duration of hospitalization. Among stroke sufferers hospitalized for over 90 days, the proportion ultimately awarded a disability pension rises to over 80%.
The results show high levels of disability pensions awards to relatively young stroke patients probably reflecting pessimism concerning ability to return to employment in such patients. More recent development of stroke units and post-acute rehabilitation programmes may justify greater optimism.