Study: People with mental disorders lose years of their working life

Study: People with mental disorders lose years of their working life


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By looking at data from all people aged 18 to 65 registered in Denmark over a 22-year period, researchers from Aarhus University were able to shed light on some of the consequences faced by people diagnosed with a disorder. mental.

The study followed a total of 5,163,321 people in Denmark, of whom 488,775 were diagnosed with a mental disorder. Researchers have found that all diagnosed mental disorders are associated with substantial loss of working life.

And while it’s not new that people with mental health conditions are at a higher risk of being unemployed or receiving a disability pension, the study is the first to quantify an estimated measure of lost time, explains the lead author of the study, Associate Professor Oleguer Plana-Ripoll from the Department of Epidemiology at Aarhus University.

“It is not surprising that people diagnosed with mental disorders spend more time outside of work, we already knew this. But the magnitude surprised us, losing an average of 10.5 years of working life, it is a lot,” he said.

Information on mental disorders was obtained from the Danish Central Psychiatric Research Register and information on labor market characteristics was obtained from administrative registers, giving researchers precise insight into the impact of diagnoses of mental disorders.

For Oleguer Plana-Ripoll, the results show the substantial impact of mental disorders on the lives of those diagnosed.

“Our study shows that patients with a very high degree of mental disorder are more unable to work or study than the average Danish population. There is a need to invest in programs that reduce the number of lost working years and help people with mental disorders return to the workforce,” he explains.

Schizophrenia has the greatest impact

The researchers first looked at the total number of lost working years associated with all mental diagnoses combined, reaching an average of 10.5 years. Subsequently, the researchers also broke it down into 24 specific types of mental diagnoses, revealing that some diagnoses have more impact than others on the patient’s ability to work or study.

The study found that people diagnosed with schizophrenia lose, on average, 24 years of working life after receiving the diagnosis. While people diagnosed with single or recurrent depression lose about 10 years.

In the study, people diagnosed with mental disorders are those who received treatment in the psychiatric system; thus, for certain disorders like depression or anxiety, they are considered more serious cases. But even if milder cases of depression and anxiety are not included in the data used, those affected will most likely also experience time lost from studying or working, says Oleguer Plana-Ripoll.

“The cases of depression and anxiety diagnoses that we have in this dataset are the most serious cases that seek help from a psychiatrist. But there are many more cases that are treated by their own doctor. or who may not receive treatment at all.While the average lost working life for these people is likely to be lower, we expect that mild cases of mental disorders are also associated with a reduction of working life because we have observed that all types of mental disorders are to some extent,” he explains.

The time lost because of the reduction in the invalidity pension

The researchers also found that the number of working years lost due to a disability pension was almost halved in Denmark between 1995 and 2016. This coincides with a policy reform passed in 2013, making it more difficult for young people, in particular, to receive a disability pension. In 1995-2000, the years of work lost due to a disability pension amounted to 9.7 years.

This figure fell to 5.2 years during the period 2011-2016. However, this decrease was almost offset by a similar increase in years of work lost due to sick leave or unemployment, from 1.8 to 4.4 years. An Oleguer Plana-Ripoll connection hopes to continue in another study.

“This study was descriptive, which means that we just looked at and summarized the numbers. We plan to conduct a new study in which we will examine the reasons for these numbers, as well as dig deeper into the possible effects of the 2013 reform,” says Oleguer Plana-Ripoll.

The research is published in The Lancet Psychiatry log.

More information:
Oleguer Plana-Ripoll et al, The association between mental disorders and subsequent years of working life: a Danish population-based cohort study, The Lancet Psychiatry (2022). DOI: 10.1016/S2215-0366(22)00376-5

Provided by Aarhus University

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