One in three patients doesn’t return to the workforce following a heart failure diagnosis, based on research recently published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
Using data from a national Danish registry, researchers assessed whether heart failure has an immediate impact on a patient’s ability to work. Many chronic diseases like heart failure can make it difficult for patients to work. Not holding a job often has been shown to negatively impact quality of life by increasing financial stress and depleting self-esteem.
To learn more about heart failure and employment status, researchers analyzed data from nearly 12,000 Danish adults first hospitalized for heart failure between 1997 and 2012. Individuals were between 18–60 years old, and all worked prior to their heart failure diagnosis.
After tracking adults for a year following their hospitalization, researchers found that 7% had died and 25% of adults did not return to work. The remaining two-thirds of adults returned to work within a year of hospitalization.
However, certain patients were more likely to return to the workforce than others. For example, younger adults between 18–30 years old were more than three times as likely to return to work as adults ages 51–60. Men and adults with higher levels of education were also more likely to return to work than women or those with basic schooling.
Not surprisingly, researchers also found that longer initial hospitalizations and having conditions like kidney disease, diabetes and cancer were associated with a lower chance of returning to work.
According to authors, findings help shed light on the hidden consequences of heart failure. It’s well established that heart failure can worsen over time, causing debilitating symptoms that decrease quality of life. But patients’ ability to work is generally overlooked when assessing outcomes for heart failure. Thus, authors hope to stimulate future research on the issue and potential interventions to help patients maintain employment. Helping patients continue to work likely has both physical and mental benefits, and could improve outcomes.