Can Work be Good for Your Health?

As we close out October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we are exploring the connection between employment and health. Some research has shown that being employed may have several health advantages for working-age people with disabilities, including access to healthcare benefits and better social and emotional well-being, and could be connected to longer life.

Researchers are still working to understand exactly how work and better health are connected: How does being employed lead to better health outcomes for people with disabilities? Are people with disabilities who are employed more likely to be in better health than those who are unemployed? Or, conversely, are people with disabilities who are healthier more likely to be employed than those who are less healthy?

Several NIDILRR-funded centers and projects have examined the connections between health and employment:

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) has several current and completed projects focusing on longevity after spinal cord injury, including the connection between employment and longer, healthier living. Explore these projects and briefs on their research.

The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment of Individuals with Physical Disabilities (VCU RRTC) looked at the association of employment and health and well-being in people with fibromyalgia, employment as a health promotion intervention for persons with multiple sclerosis, and other employment topics. Review abstracts of articles from this center indexed in REHABDATA.

Explore more abstracts of research literature on employment and health from the NIDILRR community, including return-to-work, health promotion at work, and longevity and employment.

Check out these tools from the NIDILRR grantee community and elsewhere to help you be well and stay well at work:

Physical Wellness for Work is a toolkit for people with mental health or substance use conditions to develop physical wellness habits that help in the quest to get and keep jobs. (From the NIDILRR-funded RRTC on Health and Self-Directed Care)

Working Well with a Disability is a six-week peer facilitated workshop that builds skills to maintain life balance, manage stress, and improve health in support of looking for or maintaining employment. (Developed under a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant)

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) blog shared research and resources on inclusive workplace wellness, including Employee Assistance Programs and wellness programs. Learn more about research in inclusive worksite wellness in this 2013 webinar hosted by the Northeast ADA Center.

Worksite wellness programs are shown to reduce absenteeism, improve employee productivity, and increase profitability, but those programs may not be accessible to employees with disabilities. Retaining Employees in Your Worksite Wellness Program (PDF) is a toolkit to help employers create inclusive wellness programs. (Developed by the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor).

If you would like to learn more about research in employment and health for workers with disabilities, visit to search REHABDATA or contact an information specialist to explore deeper!

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