Objective: To study the employment rate and determinants of return to work for persons with traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) in Taiwan.
Setting: Taiwan community.
Participants: One hundred sixty-nine people who had sustained traumatic SCI, had been completely rehabilitated in a university hospital between 1989 and 2002, and who were between 18 and 60 years of age at the time of interview in 2003.
Interventions: Not applicable.
Main outcome measures: A structured questionnaire was used to identify demographic and injury-related status, functional status, and pre- and postinjury work-related information.
Results: At the time of survey, only 47% of the participants were engaged in remunerative employment. Cox regression analysis, with time elapsed between injury and survey as the underlying time axis, showed that education and functional independence were associated with employment. Subjects with a high school education had a 2.2-fold higher chance (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3-3.8) of returning to work than those without. Subjects with higher scores on the Barthel Index and ability to use public or private transport independently had a 2.7-fold higher chance (95% CI, 1.5-4.9) of returning to work than those unable to travel independently. Other factors significantly associated with employment included marital status, with marriage having a favorable influence; age at injury, with age below 25 years being favorable; preinjury occupation; and vocational training after injury. The importance of functional independence training in rehabilitation is stressed.
Conclusions: Functional independence was a strong factor predicting return to work. Rehabilitation focused on education, vocational training, self-care ability, community mobility, and environmental modifications could improve employability after SCI.