Risk factors for work disability in severe adult asthma

Am J Med. 2006 Oct;119(10):884-91. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2006.01.016.


Purpose: We aimed to elucidate the prevalence of and risk factors for work disability in severe adult asthma and to evaluate the impact of work disability on downstream health outcomes.

Methods: We used data from a prospective cohort study of 465 adults with severe asthma. Structured telephone interviews ascertained asthma status and employment history. A job exposure matrix (JEM) was used to characterize the likelihood of workplace exposure to "asthmagens."

Results: The prevalence of asthma-related complete work disability was 14% among working-age adults with severe asthma (95% confidence interval, 11%-18%). Among those who were currently employed, the prevalence of partial work disability was 38% (95% confidence interval, 31%-45%). Sociodemographic (P = .027) and medical factors (P = .020) were related to the risk of complete work disability. Both sociodemographic characteristics (P = .06) and work exposures based on the JEM (P = .012) were related to partial work disability. In additional models, poorer asthma severity, physical health status, and mental health status were all associated with a higher risk of complete and partial work disability.

Conclusions: Work disability is common among adults with severe asthma. There are three sets of risk factors for work disability that are potentially modifiable: smoking, workplace exposures, and asthma severity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism
  • Adult
  • Asthma / complications*
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Workplace