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

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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