June 17, 2022

CanProCo Researchers Report Vocational Productivity Loss Among Canadians with Early Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system that affects people during the most productive years of life. In Canada, the cost associated with MS has only been considered as productivity loss associated with absenteeism or the amount of time a person has missed from work due to sick leave and retirement. In this study, researchers from the Canadian Prospective Cohort Study to Understand Progression in MS (CanProCo) examined total productivity loss in a sample of employed Canadians with MS, including absenteeism (time missed from work), presenteeism (reduced productivity while working) and unpaid work loss (from activities such as housework, shopping, or childcare).

The study surveyed a total of 512 people with MS who were employed either full-time, part-time or self-employed. A majority of the study cohort (97%) had early MS with mild to no disability. Approximately 55% of participants reported experiencing some type of productivity loss in the three months the study was conducted. Overall, a total work productivity loss of 60 hours was observed over a 3-month period – presenteeism accounted for most time loss (23 hours), followed by absenteeism (19 hours) and unpaid work (18 hours). The lost hours correspond to an average total cost of $2,480 CAD per MS patient over three months. This monetary value takes into account the impact of productivity loss on several work-related factors, such as frequency of working with a team, team size and the employee’s influence on team function, in addition to income alone. The researchers also examined factors that could have contributed to productivity loss and identified fatigue to be associated with all three productivity loss outcomes. Biological sex, comorbidities and use of disease modifying therapies were not associated with productivity loss.

These findings suggest that the economic burden of MS may be higher than anticipated if we consider losses from unpaid work and the overall impact of productivity loss in the workplace. Effective interventions including workplace accommodations, psychosocial and pharmacological treatments, aimed at addressing the factors associated with productivity loss (i.e., fatigue) could enhance patient care and potentially reduce the economic burden of MS. Future studies could also look at productivity changes across different MS subtypes and disease severity levels as the current participant cohort was comprised mostly of individuals with early MS and low disease severity.

To learn more about this study, click here to listen to Jon Strum’s podcast RealTalkMS, episode 256 on July 26, 2022 – ‘CanProCo research shows the economic burden of living with MS in Canada may be underestimated’ (timestamp 8:58 minutes).


Llorian E.R., et al. Productivity loss among people with early multiple sclerosis: A Canadian study. Multiple Sclerosis. 2022 Feb 9:1352458521106907.