Abstract: Employment and quality of life outcomes among women with fibromyalgia compared to healthy controls

Women Health. 2004;39(4):1-19.

Reisine S, Fifield J, Walsh S, Dauser D.

Department of Behavioral Sciences and Community Health, University of Connecticut, School of Dental Medicine, Farmington, CT 06030-3910, USA. reisine@nso1.uchc.edu

The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of paid employment on health related quality of life among women with fibromyalgia compared to a group of women who were otherwise healthy.

Participants were recruited from 118 rheumatology practices randomly sampled from the membership of the American College of Rheumatology. Three hundred and sixty-five patients were referred to the study and 287 completed a telephone interview. At the end of each interview, participants were asked to nominate 2 individuals to serve as control subjects.

Because of lagging enrollment of control subjects, we initiated an additional method of asking control subjects to nominate controls. Of 381 control subjects nominated for the study, 286 or 75% completed the initial interview. As with patients, controls completed a computer assisted phone interview with a trained interviewer similar to that of the patient. The mean age of women with FMS was 47 years, most were married (59.6%), 87.8% were of white race and non-Hispanic ethnicity, 47.7% were employed, had an average of 14 years of education and household annual incomes generally exceeded $20,000, with 40.4% having incomes in excess of $50,000.

There we no significant differences between women with FMS and those without FMS on these characteristics. Women with FMS had significantly worse physical and mental health related quality of life measured by SF-12 Physical (PCS) and Mental (MCS) Component Summary Scores; those who were not employed had significantly worse PCS scores but there were no differences by employment for MCS. Ordinal regression analysis adjusting for demographic characteristics showed that there were significant main effects for condition and employment on PCS in that those with FMS and those who were not employed had worse PCS scores.

Initially, we also found an interaction effect between condition and employment in that the beneficial effects of employment was restricted to the FMS cases. However, when adjustments were made for the double nesting design, the interaction effect was no longer significant. For MCS, FMS cases had significantly worse health related quality of life, but there were no main effects for employment and no interactions were significant. Our results concur with findings in community studies that employed women report better quality of life than those not employed, but only for the physical dimension of quality of life.

The findings regarding MCS are intriguing in that women with FMS are not very different from controls and that employment has little effect on the mental health component of quality of life.

PMID: 15691082 [PubMed – in process]

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