Assessing the psychosocial impact of stammering on work

Occup Med (Lond). 2022 Feb 22;72(2):125-131. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqab169.

Abstract

Background: Stammering (stuttering) is a speech condition with high heterogeneity, affecting approximately 1% of adults. Research shows it can limit career progression, impact job performance and quality of life.

Aims: To assess the psychosocial impact of stammering among healthcare workers and to develop a new workplace support intervention.

Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire of healthcare workers who stammer with qualitative work and a survey of occupational health (OH) usual care to assess the need for a workplace intervention.

Results: Data from 470 staff questionnaires and 32 OH clinicians were analysed. Eighty-four per cent rated their stammering severity as mild-to-moderate, with the majority reporting adverse impact on job performance and career progression. Most experienced a high degree of anxiety and embarrassment at work, with avoidance behaviours commonplace. Four per cent of respondents sought OH advice for work difficulties. Qualitative data highlighted practical challenges staff experience in the workplace. Sixty-five per cent supported the proposal for a new workplace intervention. We found workplace stress and anxiety were the most common reasons for OH referrals, and we found wide variation in the scope of OH assessments and work adjustments recommended. Most OH respondents reported insufficient clinical knowledge of speech disorders and their impact on work.

Conclusions: Stammering can have a negative impact of workers' job performance and job satisfaction. This can precipitate feelings of stress and anxiety, and can affect self-identity at work. We found wide variation in the provision of OH usual care. The results informed the development of a new workplace intervention.

Keywords: Occupational health; speech disorders; stammering; stuttering; work; workplace intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Quality of Life
  • Stuttering*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workplace / psychology