Does employment alter the course and outcome of schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses? A systematic review of longitudinal research



Alison Luciano, Gary R. Bond, Robert E. Drake

Schizophrenia Research

September 29, 2014




This review synthesized prospective evidence to assess whether achieving employment alters the course of schizophrenia-spectrum disorder.


Researchers identified relevant analyses for review via PubMed, expert referral, and reference review and systematically applied two levels of screening to 1484 citations using seven a priori criteria.


A total of 12 analyses representing eight cohorts, or 6844 participants, compared illness course over time by employment status in majority schizophrenia-spectrum samples. Employment was consistently associated with reductions in outpatient psychiatric treatment (2 of 2 studies) as well as improved self-esteem (2 of 2 studies). Employment was inconsistently associated with positive outcomes in several other areas, including symptom severity, psychiatric hospitalization, life satisfaction, and global wellbeing. Employment was consistently unrelated to worsening outcomes.


Achieving employment does not cause harm among people with schizophrenia-spectrum disorder and other severe mental illnesses. Further detailed mechanistic analyses of adequately powered long-term follow-up studies using granular descriptions of employment are needed to clarify the nature of associations between employment and hypothesized benefit.









Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee