Study Confirms Heart Failure Can Reduce Ability to Return to Work

One year after being hospitalized for heart failure, one-third of patients had not returned to work, according to a study presented at Heart Failure 2016 and the 3rd World Congress on Acute Heart Failure.

One year after being hospitalized for heart failure, one-third of patients had not returned to work, according to a study presented at Heart Failure 2016 and the 3rd World Congress on Acute Heart Failure.

The study included 11,880 patients with heart failure of working age who were employed before they were hospitalized for heart failure. The study used data from Danish nationwide registries that include all Danish residents.

According to Dr Rasmus Roerth, a physician at Copenhagen University Hospital, employment is crucial for the self esteem and quality of life of patients with chronic illnesses.

"Inability to maintain a full-time job is an indirect consequence of heart failure beyond the usual clinical parameters of hospitalization and death,” Roerth said in a statement. “Most information on heart failure is derived from studies in older patients since they are the majority. This has led to a knowledge gap regarding the impact of living with heart failure among younger patients, who perhaps have the most to lose from the condition."

After being hospitalized for the first time for heart failure, 68% of patients returned to work 1 year later, while 25% had not returned to work, and 7% had died. Including only those patients who were still alive 1 year later, 37% did not return to work. This substantial percentage confirms that heart failure reduces a patient’s ability to maintain a normal life and live independently, according to Roerth.

Young patients between the ages of 18 and 30 years were 3 times more likely to return to work. Patients with a higher level of education were twice as likely to return to work.

"This could be because higher education is associated with less physically demanding jobs. In addition, it may be more possible for highly educated patients to arrange a flexible work life,” Roerth said.

In addition, men were 24% more likely to return to work than women. However, Roerth does not believe that men necessarily recover better than women. Instead, he speculated that men are more likely to be forced to return to work either for economical or other reasons.

Patients who were less likely to return to work were those who stayed in the hospital for more than 7 days or patients who had a history of stroke, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, or cancer.

Roerth pointed out that the findings of his study are “associations and not necessarily causal connections.” As such, more research is needed to better understand why some patients who were working before being hospitalized do not return to work 1 year later.

"Removal from the labor market and dependence on public benefits has great economic consequences which go beyond the already significant financial burden that these patients place on the healthcare system,” he said. “More knowledge on what stops patients going back to work will put us in a better position to find ways of preventing it, for example with more intensive rehabilitation, psychological support, or education."