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Musculoskeletal diseases and mental disorders have remained the two leading causes of disability retirement in the Western countries for decades. Some evidence exists on the detrimental effect of economic recession on mental health. Previous findings suggest considerable differences in morbidity between occupational groups. Whether the economic recession widens occupational differences in work disability retirement due to the leading causes is largely unknown.We used nationwide register data on Finnish residents aged 30–64 years. We examined occupational differences in full disability retirement due to musculoskeletal diseases (MSD) and mental disorders during 2005–2013.Between 2005 and 2013, the one-year cumulative incidence of full disability retirement due to MSDs and mental disorders decreased in both genders across all occupational groups. Occupational differences in disability retirement due to MSDs widened during the economic recession among women but not among men. However, the magnitude of excess risk for disability retirement due to co-occurrence of MSD with mental disorder (as compared to professionals as a reference group) for men in lower non-manual and manual occupations tended to increase. Occupational differences in disability retirement were reduced after controlling for occupational restructuring, the changing of employment patterns and sociodemographic factors during the follow-up period.Occupational differences in disability retirement due to MSDs and mental disorders, that are widened during economic recession, could be attributed to occupational restructuring and changes in employment patterns.