People with multiple sclerosis (MS) spend a significantly greater number of work days each year on sick leave or disability pay than do the general population — including in the years before they are formally diagnosed, a Swedish study found.
Though the number of missed work days rises in post-diagnosis years as the disease progresses, reasons given are not always directly related to MS, the researchers found. Other diagnosed illnesses also contributed to a lesser capacity for work.
The study, “Diagnosis-specific sickness absence and disability pension before and after multiple sclerosis diagnosis: An 8-year nationwide longitudinal cohort study with matched references,” was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.
MS symptoms usually first appear in working-age adults, and patients go on to experience physical and cognitive decline that limits their daily activities, including those of the workplace.
People in Sweden have guaranteed access to sick leave when their ability to work is affected by disease or injury. They also are eligible for disability payments if a disease or injury leads to long-term or permanent reductions in their work capacity. Both can be given full-time (100%) or part-time (25%, 50%, or 75%) based on normal working hours, the study noted, and patients may be able to claim both a disability pension and sick leave.
Evidence suggested MS patients in Sweden have more disability pay and sickness leave claims than do the general public. It also suggested this greater need started before an official MS diagnosis, and continued to rise with advancing disease.
However, studies of disability pay and sickness leave have looked at any cause for claims, rather than being specific to MS. People with this disease are known to be at greater risk of other conditions, and these may contribute to missed days at work.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet set out to compare the number of missed work days by MS patients, before and after their diagnosis, with that of the working population in Sweden. They also aimed to understand how many of these days were directly related to MS.
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