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Employment Study in MS Shows Value of Seeking Workplace Accommodations

August 13, 2020

In a survey of 70 people with MS, a majority of those who reported a stable or improved work situation over three years had sought out at least one work accommodation. The most common of these accommodations were flexible hours, written job instructions, the ability to work from home, and memory aids. Developing and achieving employment goals can be accomplished despite an MS diagnosis -- and the National MS Society is here to work with you as you navigate your employment options.
  • The symptoms of MS commonly appear in early adulthood, at a time when young people are typically establishing themselves in their careers. While the initial symptoms might not interfere with work activities to any significant degree, symptoms can change over the years, likely requiring some adaptation in the working life of the person with MS.
  • In this study by researchers at The State University of New York, Buffalo, 25.7% of people with MS surveyed had experienced a decline in employment over three years, most often a change from full-time to part-time employment or to complete unemployment. This loss within a short period of time highlights the need to identify those at risk for job issues quickly, and to find ways to address those issues with workplace accommodations.
  • The factor most associated with negative employment changes was what the investigators called reduced conscientiousness (being diligent, organized). Accommodations might help to increase the ability of people with MS to better organize themselves and become more goal-oriented at work.
  • The National MS Society provides extensive resources for developing and achieving employment goals, including a video series, “Employment Matters – Managing MS in the Workplace,” guidance on deciding whether and when to disclose MS to employers,  how to identify and request effective accommodations, and Working with MS, a workbook to help in considering career-related options.
“Conscientiousness and deterioration in employment status in multiple sclerosis over 3 years” by Michael G Jaworski, III, Ralph HB Benedict, PhD, and colleagues at State University of New York, Buffalo, is published in the MS Journal (Published online August 6, 2020).

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.

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