Disabling working environments and mental health: A commentary

Disabil Health J. 2019 Oct;12(4):537-541. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2019.06.002. Epub 2019 Jun 15.


Employment is a fundamental Social Determinant of Health known to have large impacts on mental health and other health outcomes. Across many countries of the world, people with disabilities are much more likely to be unemployed and looking for work than those without disabilities. The deprivation of employment opportunities is likely to have notable impacts on the health of people with disabilities. In this commentary, we outline the concept of "disabling working environments," which are defined as the range of experiences that affect the likelihood of people with disabilities in obtaining and maintaining quality employment which may then affect a disabled person's health. Disabling working environments are comprised of the following three mutually reinforcing components: 1) Differential selection into work; 2) Selection into certain types of jobs and exposure to poor psychosocial working environments when in employment, and; 3) Differential selection out of work (e.g., leaving employment at an earlier age than those who do not have a disability). We argue that policy and intervention design should consider the life course effects of employment on the mental health of people with disabilities.

Keywords: Disability; Employment; Mental health; Working conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Occupations
  • Policy
  • Unemployment
  • Work
  • Workplace*