Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 39, Issue 9, pp 686-694

First online:

Occupation, social support and quality of life in persons with schizophrenic or affective disorders

  • P. RüeschAffiliated withPsychiatric University Hospital of ZurichUniversity of Special Education of Zurich, Research Dept. Email author 
  • , J. GrafAffiliated withPsychiatric University Hospital of Zurich
  • , P. C. MeyerAffiliated withSwiss Health Observatory
  • , W. RösslerAffiliated withPsychiatric University Hospital of Zurich
  • , D. HellAffiliated withPsychiatric University Hospital of Zurich

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Most people suffering from severe mental illness (SMI) lack paid employment. This study investigates the relationship between work status and objective as well as subjective quality of life (QoL) in people with SMI.


The sample consists of 261 subjects (102 women, 159 men) aged 35 (men) and 38 (women) years on average, of whom 158 suffer from a schizophrenic disorder (ICD-10: F2) and 103 were diagnosed as having an affective disorder (ICD-10: F3). Subjective QoL was assessed with the WHOQOL-BREF scale.


Subjects with an occupation in general have a larger social network at their disposal and receive more social support. With regard to income, few (12%) of the subjects with a job on the open labour market live below the poverty level, but many (28–38%) of those engaged in sheltered or other work-like activities do. Occupation ameliorates satisfaction with life domains referring to social integration (social relationships, environment), whereas the individual’s well-being (psychological, physical) is hardly affected. Social support is an important mediator of the relationship between occupation and subjective QoL. Income is weakly and negatively related to subjective QoL.


Supportive relationships to colleagues at the workplace mainly explain the better subjective QoL of SMI people with an occupation.When designing specific employment possibilities for people with SMI, we should take notice of the social support dimension at the workplace. Mentally ill people have a substantial poverty risk, even when they are working. In particular, payment for sheltered work should be ameliorated.

Key words

employment quality of life schizophrenia affective disorder social support