Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a costly condition that frequently causes permanent work disabilities. Little information exists regarding the impact of COPD on work force participation and the indirect costs of the disease in developing countries.
Objective: To examine the frequency of paid employment and factors influencing it in a Latin-American population-based study.
Methods: Post-bronchodilator FEV(1)/FVC < 0.70 (forced expiratory volume in 1 s/forced vital capacity) was used to define COPD. Information regarding paid work was assessed by the question 'At any time in the past year, have you worked for payment?'
Results: Interviews were conducted with 5571 subjects; 5314 (759 COPD and 4554 non-COPD) subjects underwent spirometry. Among the COPD subjects, 41.8% reported having paid work vs. 57.1% of non-COPD (P < 0.0001). The number of months with paid work was reduced in COPD patients (10.5 ± 0.17 vs. 10.9 ± 0.06, P < 0.05). The main factors associated with having paid work in COPD patients were male sex (OR 0.33, 95%CI 0.23-0.47), higher education level (OR 1.05, 95%CI 1.01-1.09) and younger age (OR 0.90, 95%CI 0.88-0.92). COPD was not a significant contributor to employment (OR 0.83, 95%CI 0.69-1.00, P = 0.054) in the entire population.
Conclusions: Although the proportion of persons with paid work is lower in COPD, having COPD appears not to have a significant impact on obtaining paid employment in the overall population of developing countries.