Work factors related to psychological and health-related distress among employees with chronic illnesses

Objective: This study examined specific psychosocial factors associated with psychological and health-related distress amongst employees reporting different chronic illnesses. Methods: The sample consisted of 1029 employees managing either musculoskeletal pain (n=324), arthritis and rheumatism (n=192), asthma (n=174), depression and anxiety (n=152), heart disease (n=96) or diabetes (n=91). Information on psychological distress, work limitations, illness management, disclosure, absence, presenteeism, support and demographic factors were obtained through self-administered questionnaires. Results: Both low psychological well-being and high health-related distress were associated with an increase in work limitations (β=0.20, SE=.03; and β=0.19, SE=.01, respectively), poorer management of illness symptoms at work (β=−0.17, SE=.12; and β=−0.13, SE=.02), high presentieesm (β=0.19, SE=.25; and β=0.14, SE=.05) and low workplace support (β=−0.05, SE=.22; and β=−0.12, SE=.05). Health-related distress was additionally associated with disclosure of illness at work (β=0.18, SE=.08) and long-term sickness absence (β=0.10, SE=.06). Conclusions: To enable individuals to effectively manage both their illness and their work without serious repercussions, it is important for both healthcare professionals and employers alike, to improve the well-being of workers with chronic illness by supporting and facilitating their efforts to over-come health-related limitations at work.