Research/studies Worker health and wellness

‘Invisible disabilities’ pose risks when undisclosed: report

DeKalb, IL – Workers who conceal unseen disabilities may be risking their safety and health, according to a report from Northern Illinois University.

A team of researchers, led by Alecia Santuzzi, examined reasons why some workers chose to keep their disabilities hidden from their employers. Common reasons included denial, social stigma, a lack of awareness and concerns about how co-workers might respond.

Unseen or invisible disabilities can range from hearing and vision impairments to health issues that may cause debilitating fatigue, pain or cognitive problems.

Depending on the type of job, lack of disclosure about an invisible illness could have safety implications, Santuzzi said in a press release.

For example, a pilot with post-traumatic stress disorder – and the sleep disturbances often associated with that condition – could put others in danger by not disclosing the condition and requesting a flexible flight schedule as an accommodation. Likewise, an emergency responder with impaired hearing might not hear calls for help.

The report was published in the June edition of Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice.