Study of mental health and disability benefits among young adults
In the past years, there has been an increase in young disability benefits recipients in Norway. Mental disorders are the most common cause of disability in this group. Oslo Economics, in collaboration with the Frisch Centre, have studied mental health and disability benefits among young adults on behalf of the Norwegian Ministry of Labor. The study addresses the recent development in mental health diagnoses among young adults, and mental health diagnoses in young adults with disability benefits in particular. The study also includes an analysis of the paths to becoming a recipient of disability benefits as a young adult, as well as the effect of being diagnosed with a mental disorder on later education and participation in the labor market.
It seems that the incidence of mental disorders among young adults have increased in recent years, especially anxiety and depression disorders. Whether this is due to an actual deterioration of young adult’s mental health, increased openness and awareness of mental health issues, changes in diagnostic practices or other factors, is uncertain.
Among young adults who receive disability benefits, a large share experience challenges already during secondary school. This group has lower grades and completion rates on average than their peers. This indicates that the challenges that later lead to disability benefits do not stem from a lack of employment opportunities. The increased proportion of disability benefit recipients in ages 18-24 also seems to be attributable to an increasing proportion who have challenges at an early age, who are diagnosed with mental retardation, congenital malformations, chromosomal abnormalities, or pervasive developmental disorders as children. The number of disability benefit recipients has also increased among youth in their late 20s. A significant and increasing proportion of these are diagnosed with anxiety, depression, behavioral, personality or developmental disorders.
However, identifying the underlying causes of the increasing number of young disability benefit recipients is challenging, as many different factors make it difficult to determine the driving causes and effects. This change must be interpreted in light of recent societal changes, where many children perform poorly in primary school and many do not complete upper secondary education. Simultaneously, there has been an increased focus on mental health, and increased diagnosis of mental disorders among children and young adults with poor performance in school. Mental disorders increasingly seem to be used as an explanation for problems among young adults in school, at home, or other areas. Furthermore, the introduction of work assessment allowance (AAP) has made it easier to access health-related social security benefits for young adults without work experience. The increase in the rate of young adults who are granted disability benefits is likely caused by a combination of the above factors.