Barriers to employment for people with schizophrenia

Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Mar;163(3):411-7. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.163.3.411.


Objective: There is growing interest in identifying and surmounting barriers to employment for people with schizophrenia. The authors examined factors associated with participation in competitive employment or other vocational activities in a large group of patients with schizophrenia who participated in the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) study, a multisite clinical trial comparing the effects of first- and second-generation antipsychotics.

Method: Baseline data on more than 1,400 patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia were collected before their entry into the CATIE study. Multinomial logistic regression was used to examine the relationship between participation in either competitive employment or other vocational activities and sociodemographic characteristics, schizophrenia symptoms, neurocognitive functioning, intrapsychic functioning, availability of psychosocial rehabilitation services, and local unemployment rates.

Results: Altogether, 14.5% of the patients reported participating in competitive employment in the month before the baseline assessment, 12.6% reported other (noncompetitive) employment activity, and 72.9% reported no employment activity. Participation in either competitive or noncompetitive employment was associated with having less severe symptoms, better neurocognitive functioning, and higher scores on a measure of intrapsychic functioning that encompassed motivation, empathy, and other psychological characteristics. Competitive employment, in contrast to other employment or no employment, was negatively associated with receipt of disability payments as well as with being black. Greater access to rehabilitation services was associated with greater participation in both competitive and noncompetitive employment.

Conclusions: Overall employment of persons with schizophrenia seems to be impeded by clinical problems, including symptoms of schizophrenia and poorer neurocognitive and intrapsychic functioning. However, participation in competitive employment may be specifically impeded by the potentially adverse incentives of disability payments and by race and may be promoted by the availability of rehabilitation services.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Continental Ancestry Group / psychology
  • African Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Competitive Behavior
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Employment, Supported / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Disability / economics
  • Insurance, Disability / statistics & numerical data
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Prejudice
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational / statistics & numerical data
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenia / rehabilitation*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Welfare / economics
  • Social Welfare / statistics & numerical data
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data
  • United States


  • Antipsychotic Agents