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Psychiatric disorders and labour force activity

Annika Jonsdottir (Research Officer, Social Inclusion and Recovery Research, The Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (QCMHR), Brisbane, Australia)
Geoffrey Waghorn (Department Head, Social Inclusion and Recovery Research, The Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (QCMHR), Brisbane, Australia AND The School of Medicine, the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

Mental Health Review Journal

ISSN: 1361-9322

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore and review the range and quality of international epidemiological and observational studies reporting impacts of psychiatric disorders on labour force activity. This information is needed to explore the relative priority of different diagnostic groups for more intensive forms of vocational rehabilitation.


The authors provide an overview of the current literature. A systematic review of papers measuring labour force variables and psychiatric disorders across a range of countries is conducted. These results are compared to OECD background unemployment rates during the same period. The results for each diagnostic category included are aggregated and compared to the other diagnostic categories.


The proportions of people employed decreased with the more severe disorder categories, indicating that severe psychiatric illnesses are contributing to employment struggles for people with these illnesses, across countries.

Research limitations/implications

This review is exploratory and shows that there is little consistency in reporting of labour force variables. Future research should endeavour to utilise internationally agreed definitions of labour force activity.

Practical implications

This conclusion is relevant to matching community residents with psychiatric disorders to the more intensive and costly forms of vocational rehabilitation.


To our knowledge, no previous review has examined diagnostic categories of psychiatric disorders by labour force activity internationally while taking into account background unemployment. This review found an employment gradient related to severity of diagnostic category that will be of interest to clinicians and policy makers.



On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest and that all funding for the project came from the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (QCMHR).


Jonsdottir, A. and Waghorn, G. (2015), "Psychiatric disorders and labour force activity", Mental Health Review Journal, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 13-27.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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