Purpose: Previous studies have reported a considerable employment disadvantage among people with epilepsy. In a cohort of men and women who had experienced a single seizure or had early epilepsy at study entry we explored employment status and social mobility over 4 years and investigated whether employment outcomes were more disadvantageous for certain social groups.
Methods: Analyses were based on 350 individuals of working age identified via the UK Multicentre Study of Early Epilepsy and Single Seizures. Employment rates were calculated for the cohort and general population. Employment trajectories over 4 years were explored according to occupational social class. The relative risk of employment was calculated by clinical features of seizures and social class.
Results: Individuals with single seizures or early epilepsy had significantly lower employment rates than the general population at study entry, and 2- and 4-year follow-up. Employment rates of men and women in the cohort did not differ significantly. Although little social class mobility occurred during follow-up, there was evidence of some downward mobility between first seizure(s) and study entry. In the fully adjusted model, nonemployment was predicted at all time points by having fair/poor self-rated health and experiencing four or more seizures. We observed that some individuals continued to work in hazardous occupations or drive professionally within a year of experiencing seizure(s).
Discussion: People who have recently experienced a single seizure or who have early epilepsy are exposed to substantial employment disadvantage. Greater efforts are necessary to help these people return to work and stay employed.