Factors related to employment among chronically mentally ill patients

Pamela Kay Lewis, The University of Texas School of Public Health


A descriptive study of demographic and psychosocial factors believed to be associated with employment was carried out through face-to-face interviews with 417 chronically mentally-ill patients. Subjects had been hospitalized a minimum of two times for psychiatric treatment, had been discharged from at least one of these hospitalizations in the two years prior to the study, and were currently residing within a specific community mental health center catchment area in Texas. The study group ranged in age from 16 to 68 years and over one-half had chart diagnoses of schizophrenia. A structured interview was developed which addressed current employment status, length of current employment, job title of current or last job, and detailed work history for the prior five years. Four measures of social support were included in the interview. Each subject was asked to identify one recent work and one recent non-work situation which had been stressful or very demanding. A coping questionnaire was verbally administered to measure the ways in which subjects had coped with these specific stressful situations. Analysis of results revealed that 27 percent of the sample was gainfully employed at time of interview. Differences between the employed and unemployed groups were analyzed by t-test an chi square. The employed demonstrated significantly more weeks of employment in the prior five years than the unemployed. The current jobs of the employed required a significantly higher relationship to "things" or inanimate objects than the last jobs of the unemployed. Subjects diagnosed as schizophrenic were significantly less likely to be employed than subjects with other diagnoses. Employed subjects scored significantly higher on three of four measures of social support than unemployed subjects, including reported frequency of social group attendance and/or meetings with mental health professionals. Problem-focused coping was used significantly more by the employed than by the unemployed to deal with stressful situations in the work, but not the non-work, context.

Subject Area

Occupational psychology

Recommended Citation

Lewis, Pamela Kay, "Factors related to employment among chronically mentally ill patients" (1988). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9020186.