Unemployment is more common among people with MS than in the general population, and it affects health-related quality of life and contributes to the high economic impact of the disease. Many studies have found that individual factors, such as age, disease duration and physical disability, are associated with unemployment in MS. A newly published US study1, part-funded by the US National Multiple Sclerosis Society, took a comprehensive approach and investigated whether different factors interact to impact on employment status.
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University measured four key MS symptom-related factors in 53 people with MS: cognition, fatigue, depression and motor function (e.g. co-ordination and dexterity). Using a model that included all four of these factors, researchers were able to predict which participants were unemployed. When tested individually, cognition, fatigue and motor function, were associated with unemployment, but depression was not.
This work demonstrates that physical disability is not the only factor affecting unemployment in patients with MS: fatigue and cognitive impairment also contribute. These changes can occur early in the disease course, highlighting the need for early intervention.
The researchers conclude, “Interventions targeting cognitive difficulties and fatigue in MS may be effective in helping individuals maintain employment.”
This is a relatively small study, but other research is ongoing. We look forward to the results of the global MS employment survey carried out by the MS International Federation, which will be released in time for World MS Day 2016.
1. Cadden M, Arnett P. Factors associated with employment status in individuals with multiple sclerosis. Int J MS Care 2015;17:284–91.