AIMS: Few disability pensions at the age of 40 in Norway are granted due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD) or diabetes, but disability pensioners have an excess mortality of these diseases. In this study, we aim to present risk factors for CVD and diabetes in young disability pensioners, compared with persons able to work. METHODS: A population-based survey of Norwegian men and women aged 40-42 years was conducted in 1997-1999, with 62,778 participants. Disability pensioners (n= 2636) and other non-working persons (n = 5105) were compared with persons able to work. Risk factors were compared in persons without CVD and diabetes. RESULTS: Prevalence of self-reported CVD and diabetes was markedly higher in disability pensioners than in persons able to work. In persons without these diseases, we found elevations of all measured risk factors were more prevalent in disabled men and women. Myocardial infarction risk was about 50% higher in disability pensioners. Disability pensioners were more physically inactive and obese; they smoked more and had lipid disorders with elevated total cholesterol, low high-density lipoprotein (hdl)-cholesterol and elevated triglycerides. Other non-working persons had less pronounced elevations of most of the risk factors. CONCLUSIONS: A high proportion of disability pensioners and others not working at the age of 40 had an elevated risk for CVD and diabetes.