Factors affecting employment after spinal cord injury


A US study published in the journal Spinal Cord has found it takes an average of almost four years to find a job after a spinal cord injury.

Secondary and tertiary qualifications, reduced severity of injury, and returning to a pre-injury employer were associated with a shorter length of time between injury and first job.

The average time for participants to find their first full-time job was 4.3 yrs.

Similar factors were found to influence obtaining a first full-time job. In addition, race and gender were also significant. Females and non-Caucasians took longer to find full-time employment as well as earning less than males and Caucasians.

1134 study participants aged between 18 and 64 were recruited from US rehabilitation hospitals and had sustained a traumatic spinal cord injury at least one year prior to the study. Participants were given Life Situation Questionnaires and employment surveys that examined their employment history, age at injury, gender, race, and injury severity. They were interviewed over the phone.

The research highlighted the significance of pre-injury employers. Working with pre-injury employers to return an individual to work is important and if not possible, the interval of time to work after a spinal cord injury may be longer.

Whilst the study also suggested having completed a bachelor’s degree facilitated a faster return to work, other new research suggests pre-injury education is less predictive than post-injury education. Further education may still be required for many people to work following spinal cord injury. However, post-injury education could reflect individuals who are very motivated to become employed.

Further research to understand the impact of spinal cord injury on employment is needed. Information on areas such as job retention, work lapses and early retirement, intensity of work (number of hours per week), job satisfaction and earnings, is lacking.

Returning to work after a spinal cord injury has been shown to be an important step in rehabilitation. It can provide many benefits including earning a living, feeling like a productive member of society and improving quality of life.

Limitations to the present study include retrospective self-reporting, limited representation of racial groups, some selection bias with people dropping out of the study as well as capping data collection, which may have produced an artificial low time between injury and employment.

Krause, et al. (2010). Delayed entry into employment after spinal cord injury: factors related to time to first job. Spinal Cord, 48(6); 487-91.

Link to abstract - www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19935754

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