Zimmerman M, Galione JN, Chelminski I, Young D, Dalrymple K, Ruggero CJ. Sustained unemployment in psychiatric outpatients with bipolar disorder: frequency and association with demographic variables and comorbid disorders.
Bipolar Disord 2010: 12: 720–726. © 2010 The Authors.
Journal compilation © 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.
Objectives: The negative impact of bipolar disorder on occupational functioning is well established. However, few studies have examined the persistence of unemployment, and no studies have examined the association between diagnostic comorbidity and sustained unemployment. In the present report from the Rhode Island Methods to Improve Diagnostic Assessment and Services (MIDAS) project, we described the amount of time unemployed in the five years before the evaluation in a large cohort of outpatients diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and determined the demographic and clinical correlates of sustained unemployment.
Methods: A total of 206 patients diagnosed with DSM-IV bipolar I or bipolar II disorder were interviewed with semi-structured interviews assessing comorbid Axis I and Axis II disorders, demographic and clinical variables. The interview included an assessment of the amount of time missed from work due to psychiatric reasons during the past five years. Persistent unemployment was defined as missing up to two years or more from work.
Results: Less than 20% of the patients reported not missing any time from work due to psychiatric reasons, and more than one-third missed up to two years or more from work. Prolonged unemployment was associated with increased rates of current panic disorder and a lifetime history of alcohol abuse or dependence. Patients with prolonged unemployment were older and experienced more episodes of depression.
Conclusions: Most patients presenting for the treatment of bipolar disorder have missed some time from work due to psychiatric reasons, and the persistence of employment problems is considerable. Comorbid psychiatric disorders are a potentially treatable risk factor for sustained unemployment. It is therefore of public health significance to determine if current treatments are effective in bipolar disorder patients with current panic disorder, and if not, to attempt to develop treatments that are effective.