Unemployment is high among individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). Certain disease variables and demographics have been found to distinguish employed and unemployed individuals. However, these variables only account for 14-20% of the variance. Other factors, such as coping, perceived stress and social support, in the workforce have been proposed, but not yet fully examined. The purpose of the present investigation was to examine the role of known factors associated with unemployment in MS, as well as coping and perceived work stress and social support. Sixty-eight women with MS were asked about their employment status and reasons for leaving. They completed a comprehensive assessment including measures of cognition, disease symptoms, psychological functioning, coping and stress. Consistent with previous findings, certain disease and demographic variables were associated with being unemployed. In particular, women who left work due to their MS were found to be older, had a longer disease duration and progressive course, reported greater disability and fatigue, and performed worse on a cognitive measure. However, we also found that coping style distinguished those who were employed from those who left work due to their MS. In particular, those who left work reported utilizing maladaptive coping mechanisms such as behavioral disengagement and substance use. With regard to perceived work stress and support, individuals who were employed reported that job security and fellow co-workers were more of an uplift than a hassle in their lives, suggesting some benefit in employment. These findings suggest that further consideration be given to role of coping and perception of the benefit of employment among individuals with MS when making recommendations regarding work decisions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Psychology
- Applied Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health