Objective To compare the work disability (WD) rate in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients 10 years after disease onset, with the WD rate in the background population,and to assess whether clinical or demographic factors in the early disease course could predict WD after 10 years disease. Design A large, population-based inception cohort (the Inflammatory Bowel in South Eastern Norway cohort) was prospectively followed up at 1, 5 and 10 years after diagnosis. At the 10-year follow-up data on WD were collected. Data on disability pension (DP) in the background population were retrieved from public databases. We calculated overall and age-standardised relative risks (RR) for DP. Logistic regression analysis was used to examine predictive factors. Results A total of 518 patients completed the 10-year follow-up (response rate 83.5%). The overall disability rate in the IBD population was 18.8%, and the RR was 1.8 (95% CI 1.4 to 2.3) for ulcerative colitis (UC) and 2.0 (95% CI 1.4 to 2.7) for Crohn's disease (CD). The RR for DP was highest in patients aged below 40 years while patients aged over 60 years had no increased RR. Steroid treatment at the 1-year follow-up predicted WD after 10 years disease in both CD and UC. In UC, increased C-reactive protein (CRP) or erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) at diagnosis, early colectomy, and more than two relapses during the first year of the disease also predicted WD. Conclusion Ten years after disease onset IBD patients had an increased RR for DP as compared with the background population. The youngest patients had the highest RR. Markers of severe disease course predicted WD.