Employment needs of people with multiple sclerosis.

TitleEmployment needs of people with multiple sclerosis.
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsJohnson KL, Weir VG, Verrall A, Stephens A, Henderson L, Amtmann D
JournalInternational Journal of MS Care
Employment in MS, Rehabilitation strategies and therapy and MS

Background: The majority of people with disabilities prefer and are able to work. However, people with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience many barriers to employment, resulting in low employment rates. Barriers include functional limitations, systemic variables associated with subsidy and health care, and socio-environmental barriers such as attitudes of others and lack of physical access. Objectives: To investigate employment needs faced by people with MS. Methods: The telephone-based survey was completed by community-dwelling adults with MS (N = 440) residing in Alaska, Montana, and Washington. A purposive sampling plan was used to target underrepresented groups including those living in a rural area, those with progressive MS, men, and those under 30 years old. Results: 23% of our sample reported functional employment, defined as greater than or equal to 20 hours per week. Of those lacking functional employment, 57.7% reported a desire to work. Average (SD) number of hours per week worked for those functionally employed was 38.3 (10.1). Those who are employed tended to be younger, with an average age of 44.6 years, and diagnosed within the last 5 years. 14.6% reported wanting to work a greater number of hours, and 24% reported wanting to work fewer hours. 25% reported that their MS symptoms caused them to reduce the number of hours worked, and the majority, 86.8%, reported that they have disclosed to their employer their MS diagnosis. Of possible employment programs, managing stress was rated as most important. However, 56.6% of those working would not participate in employment-related events. Conclusions: Organizations and groups whose mission is to improve the quality of life of people with MS face an immense challenge in assisting with employment maintenance for those who are employed and initiating employment for those who are unemployed and wish to work. Employment services such as state vocational rehabilitation are underused, and over half of the respondents would not participate in programs to assist them with employment-related issues even though they may be at risk. Consumer organizations will need to conduct outreach to people with MS who are employed, and provide assistance in a variety of formats that may be acceptable to participants.


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