Work & disability status of persons with fibromyalgia (FM)

OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence and determinants of

self-reported work disability in persons with fibromyalgia


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.


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.


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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