Post COVID-19 condition, work ability and occupational changes in a population-based cohort

Lancet Reg Health Eur. 2023 Jun 23:31:100671. doi: 10.1016/j.lanepe.2023.100671. Online ahead of print.


Background: Evidence on the impact of post COVID-19 condition (PCC) on work ability is limited but critical due to its high prevalence among working-age individuals. This study aimed to evaluate the association between PCC, work ability, and occupational changes in a population-based cohort.

Methods: We used data from working-age adults included in a prospective, longitudinal cohort of a random sample of all individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 between August 2020 and January 2021 in the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland. We evaluated current work ability, work ability related to physical and mental demands, and estimated future work ability in 2 years (assessed using Work Ability Index), and PCC-related occupational changes one year after infection.

Findings: Of 672 individuals included in this study, 120 (17.9%) were categorised as having PCC (defined as presence of self-reported COVID-19 related symptoms) at 12 months. There was very strong evidence that current work ability scores were mean 0.62 (95% CI 0.30-0.95) points lower among those with PCC compared to those without in adjusted regression analyses. Similarly, there was very strong evidence for lower odds of reporting higher work ability with respect to physical (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.30, 95% CI 0.20-0.46) and mental (aOR 0.40, 0.27-0.62) demands in individuals with PCC. Higher age and history of psychiatric diagnosis were associated with more substantial reductions in current work ability. 5.8% of those with PCC reported direct effects of PCC on their occupational situation, with 1.6% of those with PCC completely dropping out of the workforce.

Interpretation: These findings highlight the need for providing support and interdisciplinary interventions to individuals affected by PCC to help them maintain or regain their work ability and productivity.

Funding: Federal Office of Public Health, Department of Health of the Canton of Zurich, University of Zurich Foundation, Switzerland; Horizon Europe.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cohort; Long covid; Observational study; Occupation; Post COVID-19 condition; SARS-CoV-2; Work; Work ability.