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.