To track changes in the proportion of persons ages 18–64 with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) who were employed from diagnosis through 2004, to estimate changes in annual work hours during this time, and to describe risk factors for work loss among those employed at diagnosis.
A structured telephone survey was administered to a cohort of 982 persons with SLE, which was assembled between 2002 and 2004. Of the 900 enrolled in 2002–2003, 832 (92%) were re-interviewed in 2004. We tabulated the proportion employed at diagnosis, at baseline interview, and at followup in 2004. Among individuals employed at each time frame, we estimated the hours of work per year. We then used the Kaplan-Meier method to estimate time until work loss among individuals employed at diagnosis and Cox proportional hazards regression to describe the risk factors for such work loss.
Between diagnosis and followup interview, the proportion employed declined from 74% to 54%. Over the same period, hours of work per year declined by 32.2% among all individuals with a work history, but by only 1% among those continuously employed. Among individuals working at diagnosis, the proportion employed declined by 15% and 63% after 5 and 20 years, respectively. Demographics (age, sex, and education) and work characteristics (physical and psychological demands of jobs and level of control) were the principal determinants of work loss.
Total cessation of employment, rather than reduced hours among employed persons, accounts for most of the decline in annual work hours among persons with SLE.