Objective: To assess the specific contribution of memory impairment to employment status in persons with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: A total of 832 patients with SLE were surveyed and data collected on demographics, SLE symptoms and activity, health status, depression, medications, health resource utilization, and current employment status. Participants underwent screening for memory impairment and based on their scores were categorized to 3 levels of memory function: intact, mild-moderate impairment, and severe impairment. Employment status was compared across impairment levels using multivariate logistic regression, adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics (i.e., age, sex, race, education, and marital status), employment status at year of diagnosis, disease activity, disease duration, and depression.
Results: In the intact memory function group, 54.2% were employed, versus 40.6% in the mild-moderate impairment group and 31.0% in the severe impairment group. In the intact memory function group, 29.2% were unable to work, versus 40.6% in the mild-moderate impairment group and 56.3% in the severe impairment group. After multivariate adjustment, increasing levels of memory impairment predicted a decreased likelihood of being employed: odds ratio (OR) 0.70, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.48-1.02 for the mild-moderate impairment group and OR 0.57, 95% CI 0.32-1.00 for the severe impairment group. Participants with memory impairment were more likely to report being unable to work: OR 1.36, 95% CI 0.90-2.04 for the mild-moderate impairment group, and OR 1.99, 95% CI 1.12-3.55 for the severe impairment group. These findings were statistically significant only in the severe impairment groups.
Conclusion: The findings suggest that severe memory impairment is an important factor associated with employment status in persons with SLE.