Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

115P Clinical and Social Factors Contributing to Employability In Schizophrenia

Saturday, January 14, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Mercedes Hernandez, MSW, PhD Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Concepcion Barrio, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
John S. Brekke, PhD, Frances Larson Professor of Social Work Research, Associate Dean of Research, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Purpose: Employment has been recognized by consumers and mental health providers as a highly valued component in the course of psychiatric rehabilitation for schizophrenia. Research has found that employment is associated with such benefits as increased motivation, self-empowerment and quality of life. However, given the debilitating social and cognitive effects of the illness, engaging in work activities is often challenging for most individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. Learning more about the clinical and social barriers that may impede engagement in work activities can inform the effectiveness of interventions focused on important employment outcomes.

Method: This study used data from an NIMH-funded project on psychosocial rehabilitation to examine predictors related to employment among 167 newly admitted individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia receiving community mental health services in Los Angeles. Employment (N=61) was defined as paid and unpaid work for the past six months with average number of days worked totaling 68 days (SD=49.95). A logistic regression model examined the following predictors shown by prior research to be related to employability: symptom severity (measured by the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale: BPRS), social competence and years of education.

Results: Results revealed that all variables were significant. Specifically, as symptom severity increases the probability of employment decreases by 10% (OR=.957, 95% CI=.921-.995). In addition, as social competence increases the probability of working versus not working increases by 45% (OR=1.447, 95% CI=1.094-1.914). Finally, with more years of education the probability of working increases by 26% (OR=1.255, 95% CI=1.018-1.547).

Implications: Our findings revealed the powerful influence of symptom severity and social competence as key factors in employability for individuals with schizophrenia. Not surprisingly, education was found to be a significant contributor to employability building on prior findings. It is possible that individuals with less education may have presented with symptoms early on, which may have impacted their academic functioning and thereby limiting their ability to reach important milestones and develop the social and life skills that facilitate employability. Overall these striking findings not only underscore the need for timely interventions to reduce clinical acuity but also the need for psychosocial approaches targeted at improving social and interpersonal skills to increase employability.