Impact of the COVID‐19 Pandemic on the Employment of Canadian Young Adults With Rheumatic Disease: Findings From a Longitudinal Survey
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OBJECTIVE: The COVID-19 pandemic has had considerable economic repercussions for young workers. The current study was undertaken to examine the impact of the pandemic on the employment of young adults with rheumatic disease and on perceptions of work and health. METHODS: Surveys were administered to young adults with rheumatic disease prior to and following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Surveys asked about employment status and collected information on sociodemographic, disease/health, and work-context factors. Items also asked about the perceived impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on work and health. A generalized estimating equation model was fitted to examine the effect of the pandemic on employment. RESULTS: In total, 133 young adults completed the pre-COVID-19 pandemic survey (mean age 28.9 years, 82% women). When compared to the pre-COVID-19 pandemic period, employment decreased from 86% to 71% following the pandemic, but no other changes were identified in sociodemographic, disease/health, or work-context factors. The time period following the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a 72% lower odds of employment compared to the pre-pandemic period (odds ratio 0.28 [95% confidence interval 0.11-0.71]). Those with a postsecondary education or who reported more mental job demands were more likely to be employed following the onset of the pandemic. Also, a majority of participants reported that the pandemic affected health care (83%), treatment access (54%), working conditions (92%), and occupational health and safety (74%). CONCLUSION: The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had socioeconomic implications for young people with rheumatic disease. To support economic recovery for individuals with rheumatic disease, strategies to promote employment should be designed that account for the young adult life phase and occupational characteristics.