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Persons with lupus have trouble getting and staying employed

Research Activities, September 2009

Individuals with systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) struggle to find a job when they are younger and many lose jobs when they are older, reveals a new study. This predicament is typically due to the debilitating symptoms of the disease, which range from severe fatigue and depression to muscle and joint pain and swelling, note Edward Yelin, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). They analyzed 4 years of data on 957 patients from the Lupus Outcomes Study conducted at UCSF, as well as U.S. census and national labor statistics data. The researchers compared work loss and work entry, predictors of work loss/entry, and risk factors for employment outcomes among those with lupus with a matched national sample without lupus.

At the start of the study, just over half (51 percent) of those with lupus were employed. Of these, 23.4 percent had experienced some sort of work loss. Factors that predicted work loss included being older, having lower cognitive and physical functioning, and being depressed. There were also 376 participants who were not employed at the time they entered the study. Only 20.2 percent were able to enter the work force during the 4-year study period. Factors that predicted work entry included a low level of disease activity, fewer lung problems, better physical functioning, and a shorter time since a person's last employment.

Low rates of employment in participants under age 55 were due to lower rates of work entry. However, those participants over 55 had both high rates of work loss and low rates of work entry contributing to their low employment rate. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13893).

See "Work loss and work entry among persons with systemic lupus erythematosus: Comparisons with a national matched sample," by Dr. Yelin, Chris Tonner, M.P.H., Laura Trupin, M.P.H., and others, in the February 15, 2009, Arthritis 61(2), pp. 247-258.

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Page last reviewed September 2009
Internet Citation: Persons with lupus have trouble getting and staying employed: Research Activities, September 2009. September 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.