Comorbidity, work ability, and disability retirement among women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). A population-based analysis in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966.

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Oulu University Hospital, Lecture Hall 4

Topic of the dissertation

Comorbidity, work ability, and disability retirement among women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). A population-based analysis in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966.

Doctoral candidate

Licentiate of Medicine Linda Kujanpää

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Medicine, Clinical Research Unit, Medical Research Center (MRC)

Subject of study

Obstetrics and Gynecology


Docent Saila Koivusalo, University of Helsinki


Professor Terhi Piltonen, University of Oulu

Visit thesis event

Add event to calendar

Women’s most common endocrine disorder, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), presents as a multimorbid condition and decreases work ability.

A Doctoral dissertation completed at the University of Oulu by Linda Kujanpää (M.D.) concluded that women with PCOS have higher number of comorbidities, impaired work ability and a twofold risk of disability retirement as early as midlife. Earlier studies on work ability related to PCOS are missing.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the most common yet underdiagnosed endocrine disorder in women, affects 6–18% of the female population. Given that PCOS is associated with obesity, hyperandrogenism, impaired glucose metabolism, and chronic low-grade inflammation, women with the syndrome are at risk for several comorbidities. In fact, earlier studies have shown that women with PCOS are at increased risk for infertility, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, psychiatric disorders, and asthma, all of which can decrease quality of life and impair working life performance.
The main aims of this Doctoral dissertation were to assess overall comorbidity related to PCOS by examining self-reported and register-based International Classification of Diseases (ICD) diagnoses at age 46 and to investigate work ability, attachment to working life, and early retirement among women with PCOS at late fertile age. Furthermore, self-reported and register-based medication use by women with PCOS at age 46 was also examined. The study population was derived from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 (NFBC1966) with data linkages to various national registers.
The results revealed PCOS to be a multimorbid condition as overall comorbidity and medication use were notably increased among women with PCOS compared to control women of the same age. In fact, multiple diseases of different organ systems are more common among those with PCOS, such as endocrine diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, infections, infertility, migraine, transient cerebral ischemic attacks, and hypertension. In addition, multiple medications, such as hypertensives, antidiabetics, thyroid medication, cough and cold drugs, and analgesics, were used more often among affected women compared to controls. However, the most notable finding was the decreased ability to work, corresponding to one additional month of both unemployment-related and medically certified absences from work during a two-year follow-up and a twofold higher risk of disability retirement by age 52, compared to control women.
All in all, PCOS is associated with several comorbidities that have a negative impact on working life. Accordingly, more attention should be paid not just to women with PCOS but also, and especially, to their comorbidities and well-being in work and life. Concerted efforts backed by a multidisciplinary, holistic approach should be made to help women with PCOS sustain their careers and improve their health and quality of life more generally.
Last updated: 23.1.2024