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The social network characteristics of fibromyalgia (FM) patients compared with healthy controls

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By Bolwijn PH, van Santen-Hoeufft MH, Baars HM, Kaplan CD, van der Linden S • www.ProHealth.com • February 9, 1996


OBJECTIVE: To assess structural social network characteristics and
perceived loneliness in fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) patients
and healthy controls.

METHODS: A cross-sectional,
retrospective, case-control design was employed using a
structured interview and a self-report questionnaire. We
studied 25 female FMS patients and 25 matched healthy female
controls.

RESULTS: FMS patients had statistically
significantly (P < 0.05) more intimate friends (mean 4.5) and
more health care providers (mean 1.5) than did controls (2.3
and 0.0, respectively). The FMS patients more often initiated
the contact with family members (mean 2.1) than did controls
(mean 0.8). FMS patients did not perceive themselves as
lonelier than controls perceived themselves. While there was a
significant negative correlation between loneliness and
social network variables among the controls, this
relationship was not significant among the FMS patients.

Among the patients, there was a strong correlation between
the total social network size and the number of intimate
friends, whereas in controls, the mean number of
acquaintances was strongly correlated with the total network
size.

CONCLUSION: Compared to healthy controls, the social
networks of FMS patients presented more linkages with
intimate friends, family members, and health care providers.
The lack of correlation between loneliness and social network
variables for FMS patients is not what might be expected from
social support theory. The assessment of structural social
network characteristics along with social support variables
may add to our understanding of the social functioning of FMS
patients.




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