Unemployment Poses Mental Health Risk to Dyspraxic Adults

Carly Godden  |  04/07/2020

Researchers say that employers should be aware of this risk.

Unemployment presents a serious risk to the mental wellbeing of adults with developmental coordination disorder (DHD/dyspraxia), according to a small UK study.

In a study—run by the University of Wales and University of London— unemployed adults were found to be five times more likely to report ‘extreme dissatisfaction’ with their lives compared with their employed peers. 

Data was collected from a survey of 57 adults with dyspraxia, most of whom were aged between 21-30 years old. Participants were queried about their employment history, mental and general health and feelings of personal fulfilment.

Almost 70% of those assessed were employed and reported feeling significantly happier with their lives, compared with their unemployed peers. However regardless of their job status, the study group had rates of anxiety and depression well above that of the general UK population. 

The study aligns with earlier research suggesting that emotional difficulties endured at a young age carry into adulthood. Furthermore, poor self-esteem and social isolation can accompany medical problems relating to motor coordination in childhood.

Problems with handwriting and organisational skills also can plague those at university. As the individuals age, they experience new channellings and increasing demands—such as learning to drive and entering the job market. “It is reasonable to suggest that over the course of the lifespan the persisting motor difficulties will affect mental health and wellbeing and potentially employment success,” say the researchers. 

The researchers stress that further investigation into the mental health of dyspraxic individuals relative to their employment status needs to be undertaken. It was not clear whether, “people with DCD are more protected from a number of negative thoughts and feelings if they are in employment or are … more at risk because they are out of employment.” Alternatively, those not working may already be predisposed to more severe health and wellbeing issues.

However, the researchers say that dyspraxic adults are likely to be doubly disadvantaged, noting that feelings of anxiety and depression can often be linked to both motor control difficulties and unemployment. 

Supported employment programs may help raise the quality of life for the dyspraxia population, say the researchers. Such schemes created for the autistic population have had notable success in improving the participants’ outlook on life. Equally, equivalent programs could be rolled out to equip employees with empathy, insight and understanding to support their dyspraxic colleagues.