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Work intensity and variations in health and personal characteristics of individuals with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

by Michelle A. Meade, Kirsten Barrett, Phyllis S. Ellenbogen, M. Njeri Jackson

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The purpose of this study is to describe the relationship between work intensity, personal and injury-related factors and the resources typically associated with employment, including insurance, access to health care, and salary. Retrospective analysis is performed on cross-sectional data from 436 individuals between the ages of 18 and 64 years old that participated in the quantitative component of a larger project examining the needs of Virginians with SCI. No significant differences are found with regard to gender or pre-injury employment status between individuals with SCI who are not working, those employed part time (<30 hours per week), and those employed full-time >30 hours per week). Significant differences are noted between groups with regard to race, marital status, total number of medical problems, receipt of vocational services, and severity of injury. In addition, individuals who are employed either part-time or full-time are more likely to have health insurance (p=0.034) than those not working for pay. Individuals working full-time are significantly more likely to have dental insurance (p<0.001), less likely to have been unable to get needed medical care (p=0.025), and less likely to have problems with either uncontrolled spasticity (p<0.001) or chronic pain (p<0.001) in the past 12 months as compared with the other two groups. Results support the value of employment in providing access to health care and a range of other benefits for persons with a SCI. Part-time employment provided significant advantages over unemployment status however individuals who spent at least 30 hours a week in paid employment had the highest levels of resources. Our findings also suggest, though, that secondary conditions may influence the level/intensity of employment for individuals with SCI and that working part-time still provides advantages over unemployment.