OBJECTIVE--To estimate subjective health status among early retired individuals pensioned due to disorders of the musculoskeletal system. DESIGN--A survey of self-reported health status and health care utilization by means of a mailed questionnaire. SETTING--Early retirees (cases) and a random sample (controls) of individuals from the municipality of Kristianstad, Sweden. SUBJECTS--Cases: all individuals aged 25-59 years granted a full-time early retirement pension during the period 1986-1990 due to disorders of the musculoskeletal system (n = 450). The response rate was 83.6%. CONTROLS--An age- and sex-matched sample (n = 450). The response rate was 82.7%. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Self-reported health status and health care utilization. RESULTS--Early retirement entailed a deterioration in self-reported health status among men, all ages, and women aged 25-54 years. Female retirees aged 55-64 reported an improvement in health status since retirement. Early retired female immigrants were less satisfied with their health status than the Swedish ones. Early retirees reported higher health care utilization than controls, but with a reduction since retirement. Drug consumption was high. CONCLUSION--The beneficial effects of early retirement were evident among old women. Men and young and middle-aged women may need support to adjust to life as a retiree. Special attention should be given to the female immigrant retiree.