Does employment alter the course and outcome of schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses? A systematic review of longitudinal research

Schizophr Res. 2014 Nov;159(2-3):312-21. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2014.09.010. Epub 2014 Sep 30.


Introduction: This review synthesized prospective evidence to assess whether achieving employment alters the course of schizophrenia-spectrum disorder.

Method: Researchers identified relevant analyses for review via PubMed, expert referral, and reference review and systematically applied two levels of screening to 1484 citations using seven a priori criteria.

Results: A total of 12 analyses representing eight cohorts, or 6844 participants, compared illness course over time by employment status in majority schizophrenia-spectrum samples. Employment was consistently associated with reductions in outpatient psychiatric treatment (2 of 2 studies) as well as improved self-esteem (2 of 2 studies). Employment was inconsistently associated with positive outcomes in several other areas, including symptom severity, psychiatric hospitalization, life satisfaction, and global wellbeing. Employment was consistently unrelated to worsening outcomes.

Discussion: Achieving employment does not cause harm among people with schizophrenia-spectrum disorder and other severe mental illnesses. Further detailed mechanistic analyses of adequately powered long-term follow-up studies using granular descriptions of employment are needed to clarify the nature of associations between employment and hypothesized benefit.

Keywords: Employment; Longitudinal outcomes; Schizophrenia; Severe mental illness.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Bibliographic / statistics & numerical data
  • Employment*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Disorders
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*