Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms are associated with MS-related work productivity loss. But it is unknown whether changes in MS symptoms would lead to changes in work productivity in people living with MS (PwMS).
To determine whether intra-individual variations in MS symptoms over time are associated with corresponding changes in work productivity in PwMS.
Study participants were employed Australian MS Longitudinal Study (AMSLS) participants followed from 2015 to 2019 with at least two repeated measures (n=2121). We used mixed effect models to examine if the within-individual variations in MS symptoms are associated with changes in work productivity.
The mean annual change in work productivity between 2015 and 2019 was -0.23% (SD = 18.68%), with 39% experiencing no change, 31% decreasing in work productivity and 30% increasing in work productivity. Our analysis showed that disability and symptom scores at the start of the year were not associated with subsequent annual change in work productivity. However, the annual change in disability and annual change in symptom severity clusters were associated with the annual change in work productivity in the same year. In a multivariable model, annual change in ‘pain and sensory symptoms’, ‘feelings of anxiety and depression’, and ‘fatigue and cognitive symptom’ were independently associated with annual change in work productivity. Every unit increase in mean annual change of the symptom clusters were associated with 2.44%, 1.57% and 1.01% annual reduction in work productivity, respectively.
Individual change in work productivity seems to be driven by the changes in symptom severity rather than the absolute severity. To improve work productivity, management should focus on stabilising or improving symptoms.