Patients living with multiple sclerosis (MS) are at an increased risk of unemployment, according to a recent study published in Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

MS typically affects individuals aged 20 to 50 years, which are the peak working years. Over 90% of those diagnosed are in the workforce at the time of diagnosis, but only 30% to 45% are still employed after diagnosis, the researchers noted. According to the study, unemployment has a negative impact on individuals and their families, as well as the physical and mental health toll associated with unemployment. 

The study included 252 individuals living with MS between the ages of 20 and 64 years who were working full- or part-time. They were recruited through the national and local chapters of the National MS Society. A survey administered at the start of the study identified 67 participants who were at risk for unemployment. Unemployment risk was defined as considering reducing their hours or leaving their jobs in the near future. 

Investigators found that those who had a progressive disease, more fatigue, poorer coping mechanisms, and less MS self-efficacy were all at risk for unemployment. Additionally, patients with these symptoms were less likely to report engaging in positive behaviors such as a healthy diet, social and intellectual activities, and exercise. 

"Risk of unemployment is highest during the first three to five years after diagnosis, so we need to be able to intervene early to prevent job losses, and their subsequent impact 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," Lauren Strober, PhD, said in a press release. "While further research is needed, professionals who provide MS care should be aware of the potential impact of this diagnosis on future employment and be prepared to intervene before individuals leave the work force."

Reference:
Study defines risk factors for unemployment in working people with multiple sclerosis [News Release] October 5, 2020; East Hanover, NJ. https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/kf-sdr100520.php. Accessed October 7, 2020.