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David Baxter

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In Germany, Approximately 35% of People With Schizophrenia Able to Work
December 4, 2007

A new study examines the factors associated with employment rates of people suffering from schizophrenia in Germany, the UK and France. The study finds that employment rates for people suffering from schizophrenia are higher in Germany than they are in either the UK or France.

Though work is often a goal many people with schizophrenia hope to meet, the employment rate for people suffering from the illness is often low. In the United States, recent estimates show that only about 10% of the schizophrenic population is employed. In Europe, the employment rate ranges from 8 to 35 percent.

The goal of the study, which appeared in the July 2007 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, "was to examine employment patterns and variables associated with working in the largest representative sample to date of people with schizophrenia resident in Germany, France and the UK."

The researchers of the study examined data collected from the European Schizophrenia Cohort Study, and found the following results:

  • Similar numbers of participants were living alone in each country, but more German respondents were living with partners and/or children, and more French respondents with their parents.
  • It was found that the overall employment rate of participants was 21.5%, but varied between countries and sites, with rates of 12.9% in the UK, 11.5% in France and 30.3% in Germany. This compares with general population employment rate of 71% in the UK, 62.2% in France and 65.4% in Germany in the year 2000.
  • The German centres had the highest proportion of people supporting themselves entirely through work. The number of people in each centre who had never worked was low, apart from in Marseille.
  • The most common type of jobs were ?elementary?, such as cleaning and labouring, and ?skilled trade occupations?, such as plumbing and metalwork. The proportion of people in official or managerial positions was very small.More people in Germany were doing sheltered or voluntary work. The German centres had more vocational services, and more placements provided within them, than the other 2 countries.
The researchers also found that employment was linked to the following factors: drug use, living alone versus with family, severity of psychopathology, earlier onset of the illness, area of residence and possessing an educational degree.

The authors commented on the low levels of employment that this study and other recent studies have demonstrated are present in the UK; the authors stated that the employment rates for people suffering from schizophrenia are alarmingly low in both London and France, equivalent to about a third of the employment rate for people suffering from schizophrenia in Germany. This information is particularly worrisome when considering the social isolation and exclusion the mentally ill community experiences, i.e., a lack of employment could be a contributing factor to this problem. In addition, lower employment rates for the mentally ill have also created higher welfare costs for the three examined countries.

Possible explanations for the low employment rates could be a paucity of low-stress and undemanding jobs, stigma associated with mental illness in the workplace, and as the authors found, drug use. Apparently, the dual diagnosis of mental illness and drug addiction was found to be of particular hindrance to employability, which the authors state, helps explain the results of past studies demonstrating that people with a dual diagnosis of mental illness and drug addiction are more likely to feel or experience social isolation.

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