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Relationship between sick leave, unemployment, disability, and health-related quality of life in patients with inflammatory bowel disease

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Abstract

Background: The goal of this study was to determine the rate of work disability, unemployment, and sick leave in an unselected inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) cohort and to measure the effect of working status and disability on the patient's health-related quality of life (HRQOL). Materials and Methods: All eligible patients were clinically examined and interviewed at the 5-year follow-up visit. In addition, they completed the 2 HRQOL questionnaires, the Short Form-36 Health Survey (SF-36) and the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionnaire validated for use in Norway (N-IBDQ). Data regarding sick leave, unemployment, and disability pension (DP) also were collected. Results: All together, 495 patients were or had been in the workforce during the 5-year follow-up period since diagnosis. Forty-two patients (8.5%) were on DP compared with 8.8% in the background population. Women with Crohn's disease (CD) had the highest probability of receiving DP (24.6%). A total of 58 patients (11.7%) reported they were unemployed at 5 years. This was equally distributed between men and women but was more frequent in patients with ulcerative colitis. Sick leave for all causes was reported in 47% with ulcerative colitis and 53% with CD, whereas IBD-related sick leave was reported in 18% and 23%, respectively. A majority (75%) had been sick <4 weeks, and a relatively small number of patients (25%) contributed to a large number of the total sick leave days. Both unemployment and DP reduced HRQOL scores, but the most pronounced effect on HRQOL was found in patients reporting IBD-related sick leave, measured with SF-36 and N-IBDQ. The observed differences also were highly clinically significant. Multiple regression analysis confirmed that IBD-related sick leave was the independent variable with the strongest association to the observed reduction in HRQOL scores. Conclusions: Unemployment or sick leave is more common in IBD patients than in the Norwegian background population. The number of patients receiving DP is significantly increased in women with CD but not in the other patient groups. Unemployment, sick leave, and DP are related to the patient's HRQOL in a negative way, but this effect is most pronounced in patients reporting IBD-related sick leave.

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