A look at school and career success in adults with childhood-onset lupus

Lupus Foundation of America

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The prognosis for children diagnosed with lupus has improved dramatically over the past several decades, with more children living longer with lupus than ever before.  As more children with lupus transition into adulthood, long-term educational and employment outcomes become increasingly important.  Now, a new study published in Arthritis Care & Research offers a first time, in-depth look at educational and employment outcomes in adults with childhood-onset lupus and provides new insights into properly navigating the path from adolescence to adulthood. 

According to the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Erica Lawson from the University of California, San Francisco, “adults studied who developed lupus during childhood appear to be attaining levels of education that are comparable to individuals who developed lupus in adulthood. We are so pleased to see this. This suggests that childhood-onset lupus may not interfere with the ability to complete higher-level education for the majority of patients.”

However, Dr. Lawson added that “individuals in the study who developed lupus during childhood were less likely to have a job, compared to individuals who developed lupus in adulthood, regardless of disease severity, ethnic background or social factors. This suggests that childhood-onset lupus is more likely to prevent success in the workplace than adult-onset lupus. This said, exploring reasons for lower rates of employment and providing employment support may help maximize long-term success in individuals who develop lupus during childhood.”

The researchers suggest that young people with lupus may need to target their career plans to ensure the flexibility they need to manage a chronic illness. Families should encourage their teens to start exploring career options early on -- talk to people who work in positions of interest, and find out how well that job might work for someone with lupus. Is it physically demanding?  Are the hours flexible?  Talk to adults with lupus who have successful careers. What types of jobs have worked well for them? What types of jobs don’t work well?

The Lupus Foundation of America encourages young people and their families to arm themselves with all the information they can so that they can successfully navigate their transition to adulthood and into the workplace.  More research is currently underway to better understand ways to help adolescents with this transition. The Lupus Foundation of America is the only voluntary health nonprofit organization in the United States with a robust research effort focused on quality of life specifically, and continues to break new ground by funding research to better understand how lupus impacts overall health and well-being in both children and adults. Learn more about the Foundation’s efforts.