Study IDs risk factors for unemployment in people with MS

October 27, 2020
A new study of employment and multiple sclerosis compared two groups of individuals with MS – those 'at risk' and 'not at risk' – for unemployment, examining the influences of multiple factors on the likelihood of staying in the workplace. The results identified factors and behaviors that may be targets for interventions to maintain employment.

For this study, the Kessler Foundation recruited 252 individuals with MS ages 20 to 64, who were working full- or part-time. A survey administered at the outset of the study identified 67 participants at risk for unemployment, defined as considering reducing their hours or leaving their jobs in the near future. The 'at risk' and 'not at risk' groups were compared by disease measures, person-specific factors, and health-related behaviors.

Individuals at risk tended to have a progressive form of the disease, more fatigue, poorer coping mechanisms, and less MS self-efficacy. They were also less likely to report engaging in positive behaviors such as healthful diets, exercise, and social and intellectual activities.

Researchers found the risk of unemployment is highest during the first three to five years after diagnosis, so early intervention is necessary to prevent job losses, and their subsequent effect on physical and mental health, as well as on personal and family finances. This study points to factors related to risk of unemployment that may be amenable to early intervention. 

The researchers said that while further research is needed, professionals who provide MS care should be aware of the potential effect of this diagnosis on future employment, and be prepared to intervene before individuals leave the work force.

The article was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

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