Employment and work disability in systemic lupus erythematosus: a systematic review

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2009 Mar;48(3):281-4. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/ken477. Epub 2009 Jan 19.


Objectives: Many studies have provided information on employment and work disability (WD) rates in patients with SLE, yet are often limited by small sample sizes, poor generalizability or fail to examine the risks and outcomes of WD. Our objective was to systematically review the literature on WD in SLE to identify a more generalizable point estimate and range of WD in SLE patients.

Methods: A search was conducted using Medline, EMBase, PubMed and Cochrane databases to identify publications related to SLE and employment and/or WD. Characteristics of the study samples and employment/WD data were extracted. Descriptive statistics, a test for heterogeneity and random effects models were performed to obtain pooled estimates of employment and WD rates for all patients.

Results: Twenty-six studies with a total of 9886 SLE patients were found; however, not all patients were reviewed for WD. Larger studies demonstrated the prevalence of WD at 20-40%, and pooled estimates found that 46% (95% CI 40%, 52%) were employed with SLE and 34% (95% CI 24%, 44%) had WD. WD was related to psychosocial and disease-related factors including age, race, socioeconomic status (SES), education, disease activity and duration, pain, fatigue, anxiety and neurocognitive involvement.

Conclusions: This study provides strong evidence that costs of SLE may be very high due to job loss at a younger age in SLE patients, and identifies some risk factors associated with WD, which should be targeted by interventions aimed at preventing job loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Employment*
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / psychology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / rehabilitation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Class