Dry eye disease is (DED) strongly associated with impaired work functioning, absenteeism, and anxiety about job loss, according to data reported in the Ocular Surface. Individuals with DED may have a similar risk of impaired work compared with individuals with other chronic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and depression, according to the report.
Researchers examined associations between DED and unemployment, absenteeism, and anxiety over job loss in 71,067 individuals (age range, 18-65 years; 60% women) using the Women’s Health study questionnaire and single-item questions. The team administered the Work Role Functioning Questionnaire 2.0 to 32,475 participants and corrected their findings for age, sex, body mass index, income, educational level, smoking status, and 48 comorbidities.
Among the cohort, 8.3% of participants had DED and experienced more work-related impairments compared with those without DED (49.2% vs 41.1%; odds ratio [OR], 1.21; 95% CI, 1.10-1.32). Individuals with highly symptomatic DED (1.7%) reported even more impaired work functioning (59.1%) — a statistic researchers said is comparable with depression. Participants with DED reported a higher prevalence of unemployment (5.2% vs 4.2%; OR, 1.11), absenteeism (8.14% vs 6.4%; OR, 1.16), and fear of losing their job (10.5% vs 8.1%; OR, 1.22) compared with individuals without DED. Individuals with highly symptomatic dry eye reported an even higher prevalence of these variables (6.3%, 10.1%, and 12.8%, respectively).
“DED showed a significant impact on work functioning, absenteeism and worry about job loss,” according to the researchers. “The association between DED and work functioning was comparable to that of other chronic diseases commonly thought of as function impairing. Clinicians, employers, and the general public should be better informed about dry eye ́s impact on work functioning, and it should be emphasized that dry eye is a serious disorder that requires timely diagnosis and treatment.”
Study limitations include a lack of objective testing and the assessment of different measures at different time points throughout the study.
Morthen MK, Magno MS, Utheim TP, Hammond CJ, Vehof J. The work-related burden of dry eye. Ocul Surf. 2023;28:30-36. doi:10.1016/j.jtos.2023.01.006