Background: Asthma has been found to be among the most common conditions in the working age population and is among the most common causes of work limitation, but we could find no longitudinal studies of employment among persons with this condition.
Methods: A panel of 601 persons with a diagnosis of asthma from random samples of northern California pulmonologists and allergy-immunologists were interviewed as many as three times at 18-month intervals by a trained survey worker to report on the severity of disease, demographic characteristics, and the extent of their employment. Their employment was then compared to that of a matched sample from the U.S. Bureau of the Census Current Population Survey.
Results: Ninety-two percent of the persons with asthma had worked at some point prior to study enrollment. Among persons with onset during adulthood, only 29% of those who were not employed at disease onset were working at study enrollment, compared to 68% among those who were employed. Among the 420 persons interviewed three times, 75, 81, and 75%, respectively, were employed as of the three interviews. Among these 420, 66% were continuously employed and 15% were continuously not employed. The principal determinants of continuity of employment were demographic and employment characteristics, not medical ones. The employment rate and hours of work per week and per year of the persons with asthma were similar to the matched sample.
Conclusions: Asthma has not substantially impeded the employment of the persons with asthma we studied, with the exception that those who were not employed at disease onset continued to have low employment rates.