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Work & disability status of persons with fibromyalgia (FM)

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By Wolfe F, Anderson J, Harkness D, Bennett RM, Caro XJ, Goldenberg DL,Russell IJ, Yunus MB • www.ProHealth.com • June 19, 1997


OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence and determinants of
self-reported work disability in persons with fibromyalgia
(FM).

METHODS: A longitudinal, multicenter survey of 1604
patients with FM from 6 centers with diverse socioeconomic
characteristics was begun in 1988. Assessments were by
self-report questionnaire and telephone contact, and included
work and disability events that occurred before and after
1988. Comparative analyses were performed on the entire data
set and, separately, on the Wichita data set.

RESULTS: More
than 16% of patients reported receiving US Social Security
disability (SSD) payments (highest center rate 35.7%; lowest
center rate 6.3%) compared to 2.2% of the US population (US
Social Security Administration data) and 28.9% of patients
with rheumatoid arthritis seen at the Wichita outpatient
rheumatology clinic. Overall, 26.5% reported receiving at
least one form of disability payment when SSD and other
sources of disability payments were considered. In Wichita,
less than 25% of SSD awards were made specifically for FM, but
after 1988 that figure increased to 46.4%. Work disability was
greatest at the San Antonio and Los Angeles centers.

Multivariate predictors (correlates) included pain, Health
Assessment Questionnaire disability, and unmarried status. In
addition, more than 70% of patients reporting being disabled
did receive disability payments. On the other hand, 64%
reported being able to work all or most days, and more than
70% were employed or were homemakers.

CONCLUSION: Although
most patients (64%) report being able to work, we found high
rates of self-reported work disability awards among persons
with FM followed in 6 rheumatology centers. But we also found
great variability among centers as to awards and as to
self-reported work ability. Center differences in work
disability might reflect clinic referral patterns, physician
beliefs, or socioeconomic status.




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