Chronic conditions and work

Chronic conditions refer to diseases and health conditions that last a long time and generally progress slowly. Although they can occur at any age, they become more common later in life. They are often invisible, sometimes episodic (i.e. they come and go) and often characterized by fluctuating symptoms that leave people disabled one day and functional the next. Examples of chronic diseases include arthritis, diabetes, chronic pain, depression and fibromyalgia. IWH research in this area focuses on the effects of chronic disease on work participation and productivity, as well as the effectiveness of job accommodations, benefits and other programs to ensure workers with chronic disease can stay at, or return to, work.

Featured

Monochrome splatter painting of a woman in distress
At Work article

Depressive symptoms in people with arthritis linked to lower employment rates

Research has shown that people with arthritis face difficulties finding work and staying at work. Now, a new study finds that when people with arthritis also have depressive symptoms, the risks of work disability are even greater.
Published: October 2, 2020
A blurry image of people at work
At Work article

Workplaces face many complex challenges when managing episodic disabilities: study

Employers are recognizing that they need a new model of disability management to support workers with episodic health conditions, according to a new IWH study. These conditions can raise a host of issues for workplaces, including issues of trust, stigma and privacy.
Published: August 11, 2020
IWH Speaker Series
IWH Speaker Series

Does it matter what workers’ reasons are for disclosing or not disclosing a disability at work? Why and how?

Deciding whether or not to disclose a disability to others at work is a complex consideration. People with many chronic mental and physical health conditions, often called episodic disabilities, experience times of relative wellness punctuated by intermittent periods of activity limitations. How do they decide whether or not to disclose their health conditions? In this presentation, Dr. Monique Gignac shares findings from her study examining participants' reasons and goals for disclosing—and whether these matter to work support outcomes.
Published: November 2020
Monochrome splatter painting of a woman in distress
At Work article

Depressive symptoms in people with arthritis linked to lower employment rates

Research has shown that people with arthritis face difficulties finding work and staying at work. Now, a new study finds that when people with arthritis also have depressive symptoms, the risks of work disability are even greater.
Published: October 2020
Monochrome splatter painting of a woman in distress
Research Highlights

Depression and work among adults with arthritis

About 13 per cent of working-age people in the U.S. who have arthritis also experience depressive symptoms. Having both arthritis and depressive symptoms lowers the likelihood of working. For people aged 35 to 54, having depressive symptoms in addition to arthritis lowers the likelihood of working by 17 per cent.
Published: October 2020
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IWH in the media

Patients with arthritis, depression more likely to be unemployed

Depression symptoms are associated with unemployment among working-age adults with arthritis, with middle-aged adults most affected. Jason Laday reports on a study published by Dr. Arif Jetha in Arthritis Care & Research.
Published: Healio, September 2020
A blurry image of people at work
Research Highlights

Employer perspectives on communication challenges when supporting episodic disabilities

Supporting people with episodic health conditions can be challenging from organizational perspectives. The challenges stem from the need to provide accommodation and support while respecting workers’ right to privacy, and to respond to unpredictable periods of disability while ensuring work units meet productivity demands.
Published: September 2020
Canadian HR Reporter logo
IWH in the media

Greater focus on episodic disabilities needed: Study

Disability management must adapt and create a new model to reflect the impact of episodic disabilities among employees, writes John Dujay on a study led by Dr. Monique Gignac, scientific co-director and senior scientist at the Institute for Work & Health.
Published: Canadian HR Reporter, August 2020
A blurry image of people at work
At Work article

Workplaces face many complex challenges when managing episodic disabilities: study

Employers are recognizing that they need a new model of disability management to support workers with episodic health conditions, according to a new IWH study. These conditions can raise a host of issues for workplaces, including issues of trust, stigma and privacy.
Published: August 2020
A man kneels as he works with decking boards on a patio
Sharing Best Evidence

Work activities and the development of osteoarthritis in men and women

A systematic review by the Institute for Work & Health finds strong and moderate evidence that work exposures—including lifting, cumulative physical loads, full-body vibration and kneeling/squatting/bending—can increase the risks of osteoarthritis in men and women. No increased risk was found for sitting, standing and walking (hip and knee osteoarthritis); lifting and carrying (knee osteoarthritis); climbing ladders (knee osteoarthritis); driving (knee osteoarthritis); and highly repetitive tasks (hand osteoarthritis).
Published: June 2020
Journal article