The education and employment status of patients with inflammatory bowel diseases


  • Sheetal R. Marri MD,

    1. Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics, Madison, Wisconsin
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  • Alan L. Buchman MD, MSPH

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Gastroenterology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois
    • Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 676 North St. Clair Street, Suite 1400, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois 60611
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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has the propensity to affect patients who are in their late teens and early 20s, an age when most people decide on their educational and career directions. This review describes the effects that IBD has on the continuum of education and employment. Patients with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis attain a similar level of education as that of the general population. The quality of life of such patients in school, as measured by both patients' and teachers' perceptions, indicates that, despite the difficulties that students face in terms of missed school time and physical inconveniences, teachers are generally perceived by students to have favorable attitudes toward helping them. Even though earlier work in the area of employment has suggested that the occurrence of IBD is clustered among people in white-collar positions, recent data have suggested that certain environmental risks for IBD (i.e., sedentary or indoor jobs) may be associated with jobs classified as being white-collar, and therefore having a white-collar job may in itself not be a risk factor for the development of IBD. Patients with IBD have a higher rate of nonparticipation in the labor force, and the participation rate seems to maintain steady levels over time. A majority of patients with IBD continue in the same employment positions over a period of years. Patients with IBD, especially those who have undergone surgery, took more sick leave than their counterparts without IBD. A majority of patients with IBD favored the disclosure of their diagnosis to their employers and perceived little discrimination in the workplace. Furthermore, most employers were perceived by their employees with IBD as having fair attitudes toward the compensation provided for their employees with IBD.