Heart attack and stroke survivors less likely to be employed

By June Shannon Stroke News   |   8th Jan 2019

New study finds people who have had a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest earn less

People who have experienced a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest are significantly less likely to have a job than those who have not suffered such an event, and if they are working, they tend on average to have lower incomes, a new Canadian study has found.

According to the research, “cardiovascular disease and stroke are the most common causes of death worldwide, resulting in hospitalisation, disability and loss of income. For example, one-third of heart attacks, 25 per cent of strokes and 40 per cent of cardiac arrests occur in people of working age under age 65.”

The study looked at the effect of heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest on the labour market and compared the outcomes of people aged 40 to 61 years who were working before their stroke or cardiac event with people who had not experienced an event. To rule out any temporary labour market effects due to health issues, the researchers looked at employment three years after the initial heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest.

"Even if people were able to work, their incomes in the third year after the event were 5 per cent to 20 per cent less than before,"

Dr Allan Garland, Professor of Medicine and Community Health Sciences Co-Head , Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg

“Three years after admission to hospital for any of these health events, people who survived were less likely than the matched participants to be working and had greater losses in annual earnings,” said Dr Allan Garland, Professor of Medicine and Community Health Sciences Co-Head, Section of Critical Care Medicine, University of Manitoba and physician, Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg.

“The loss in earnings was substantial, with reductions ranging from 8 per to 31 per cent. Even if people were able to work, their incomes in the third year after the event were 5 per cent to 20 per cent less than before.”

The effects for stroke were the highest, with 31 per cent decrease in earnings compared with 23 per cent for cardiac arrest and 8 per cent for acute myocardial infarction.

“Unemployment and lost earning owing to common health events have broad societal relevance, with consequences for patients, families and governments, such as bankruptcy, worsening health and lost productivity,” said Dr Garland.

Being employed is associated with well-being and life satisfaction. The researchers hope that the study will help in developing interventions and policies to support people to return to work, although more research is needed.

"Strokes affect between 8,000 and 10,000 Irish people every year, while one in four Irish people who suffer strokes are under the age of 65,"

Helena O’Donnell, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer , Irish Heart Foundation

While the authors noted that the findings “may not be generalizable to other countries” a recent Irish Heart Foundation survey of working age stroke survivors (aged under 65) yielded similar results. It revealed that 70 per cent of those surveyed experienced a significant fall in income since their stroke.

Commenting Helena O’Donnell, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer with the Irish Heart Foundation said, “Similarly in Ireland we are hearing that young stroke survivors, while grateful for the life-saving care they receive due to improvements in acute stroke services, are finding themselves isolated once discharged.”

“The results underline the alarming extent to which younger stroke survivors are struggling to get their lives back on track and how little help they have to deal with the profound impact of their brain attack. Strokes affect between 8,000 and 10,000 Irish people every year, while one in four Irish people who suffer strokes are under the age of 65. We need to improve community rehabilitation services to tackle deficits in vital recovery services while addressing financial hardship post stroke and widespread feelings of anxiety, anger and isolation.”

This study was published in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

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cardiac arrest cardiovascular disease employment heart attack heart event loss of earnings stroke survivors working age stroke young people

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