While 91 percent of heart attack sufferers return to work within one year, nearly a quarter of them (24 percent) leave their jobs within a year of returning, a new study shows.
The Danish-backed study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (AHA), analyzed 15 years’ worth of records in the Danish national registries of more than 39,000 people, ages 30 to 65, who suffered a first heart attack between 1997 and 2012.
“The ability to remain employed following a heart attack is essential to maintaining one’s quality of life, self-esteem, emotional and financial stability, so our findings carry critical implications not only for Danish patients but, perhaps more importantly, for people who live in countries with less advanced social welfare systems than Denmark,” said study author Laerke Smedegaard, M.D., a medical doctor at Herlev & Gentofte University Hospital in Hellerup, Denmark.
The study showed those with heart failure, depression or diabetes were more likely to drop out of the workforce.
Despite Denmark’s socialized healthcare system and low inequality gaps, those with lower sociosconomic status still were more likely to leave their jobs while participants with higher education and income were more likely to remain employed, according to the study.
“When evaluating a heart attack patient’s quality of life and functional capacity, simply returning to work after a heart attack isn’t enough,” Smedegaard said. “Our findings suggest that cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack should also focus on helping people maintain their ability to work in the long term for those who return to work.”
The study was funded by the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation, the Danish Council for Strategic Research, Helsefonden and the Danish Heart Foundation.