Long-term effects of mental disorders on employment in the National Comorbidity Survey ten-year follow-up

Ramin Mojtabai, Elizabeth A. Stuart, Irving Hwang, Ryoko Susukida, William W. Eaton, Nancy Sampson, Ronald C. Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Purpose: Although significant negative associations of mental disorders with employment have been documented in epidemiological research, much of this research was based on cross-sectional samples and focused only on severe and persistent mental disorders. The present study examined the longitudinal associations of more common mental disorders with employment. Methods: Data on the associations of common mental disorders with employment are presented here from 4501 respondents in the National Comorbidity Survey panel study, a two-wave community epidemiological survey of respondents aged 15–54 at baseline (1990–1992) who were re-interviewed in 2001–2003 and were employed, unemployed in the labor force or student at baseline. Lifetime mental disorders at baseline and disorders with onset after baseline were assessed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview, a fully structured interview that assessed lifetime prevalence of internalizing fear disorders (panic, phobias), anxiety/misery disorders (major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder), externalizing disorders (conduct disorder, alcohol and illicit drug abuse-dependence), and bipolar disorder. Results: Both baseline lifetime disorders and disorders with onsets after baseline were associated with significantly reduced odds of subsequent employment among respondents who were either employed or students at baseline. Population projections based on the assumption that these associations represented causal effects suggest that the mental disorders considered here were associated with 1.7–3.2 million adults being unemployed in the US population at follow-up. Conclusions: Expanded access to treatment among current employees and students with mental disorders might lead to improved employment outcomes in these segments of the population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1657-1668
Number of pages12
JournalSocial psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • Disability
  • Employment
  • Epidemiological survey
  • Impairment in functioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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