Physical symptoms and poorer coping mechanisms are major risk factors for unemployment in younger and older people with multiple sclerosis (MS), while psychological problems have the greatest impact in middle-aged patients’ unemployment, a study suggests.
These findings highlight that unemployment risk factors vary with age and call for interventions that take into account specific factors that have the greatest impact in the patient’s stage of life.
The study, “Unemployment in multiple sclerosis across the ages: How factors of unemployment differ among the decades of life,” was published in the Journal of Health Psychology.
While most people with MS report being gainfully employed before their diagnosis, it is estimated that 40% to 80% of them become unemployed during their working years due to the disease.
Several risk factors for unemployment in MS patients have been identified, including age (younger and older), being a woman, lower educational level, greater disability, progressive disease, physical symptoms, and cognitive impairment. In addition, person-specific and psychological factors such as coping, personality, self-efficacy, and anxiety, have been shown to influence the work status of people with MS.
However, how these factors may differ with the person’s stage of life, disease, and career remain unclear.
To fill this gap, researchers at the Kessler Foundation’s Center for Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research evaluated whether disease, psychological, and person-specific risk factors for unemployment varied with age in 221 working-age MS patients.
Participants (aged 20 to 64 years) were recruited through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website and local MS clinics in the New York/New Jersey metro area. They completed an online survey concerning their work status and related factors of interest, and reported whether they were considering reducing their working hours or leaving the workforce altogether within the upcoming year due to their MS.
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