Occupational disability was investigated in former Finnish athletes in the Olympic Games, World or European championships, or intercountry competitions during 1920–1965 (N = 2,402 men) for eight selected sports. The referents were 1,712 men selected from the Finnish conscription register, matched on age and area of residence and classified as completely healthy. The first outcome measure was the length of working life based on the age when the subject was granted a disability pension, or age at death before age 65. The Kaplan-Meier estimate of mean working life expectancy was 61.4 years for endurance sport athletes, 60.0 years for team games athletes, and 59.2 years for power sport competitors, compared with 57.6 years for the reference group. Decreased coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular and respiratory morbidity were observed for all athletes when compared with the referent group. It was concluded that sustained and vigorous physical activity during early adulthood may extend the occupationally active life span and defer the onset of disability before retirement age.
Jaakko Kaprio and Seppo Sarna, Department of Public Health, P.O. Box 52 (Manner-heimintie 96), SF-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.