Context: Employment rates in individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) are approximately 35%, which is considerably lower than that of the general population. In order to improve employment outcomes a clear understanding of what factors influence employment outcomes is needed.
Objective: To systematically review factors that are consistently and independently associated with employment outcomes in individuals with SCI, and to understand the magnitude of their influence.
Methods: Through an electronic search of MEDLINE/PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Social Science Abstracts and Social Work databases, we identified studies published between 1952-2014 that investigated factors associated with employment outcomes following SCI. Exclusion criteria included: (1) reviews (2) studies not published in English (3) studies not controlling for potential confounders through a regression analysis, or (4) studies not providing an effect measure in the form of OR, RR, or HR. Data were categorized based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health framework, with each domain sub-categorized by modifiability. First author, year of publication, sample size, explanatory and outcome variables, and effect measures were extracted.
Results: Thirty-nine studies met the inclusion criteria. Twenty modifiable and twelve non-modifiable factors have been investigated in the context of employment following SCI. Education, vocational rehabilitation, functional independence, social support, and financial disincentives were modifiable factors that have been consistently and independently associated with employment outcomes.
Conclusion: A number of key modifiable factors have been identified and can inform interventions aimed at improving employment outcomes for individuals with SCI. Future research should focus on determining which factors have the greatest effect on employment outcomes, in addition to developing and evaluating interventions targeted at these factors.
Keywords: Employment; Spinal Cord Injuries; Systematic Review; Work.