Disability Status in Fibromyalgia Patients Related to Occupation, Severity of Symptoms, Study Shows

Disability Status in Fibromyalgia Patients Related to Occupation, Severity of Symptoms, Study Shows

A recent study showed that about 30 percent of Canadian patients suffering from fibromyalgia (FM) had disability status. Patients who were considered disabled were more likely to show more severe symptoms of fibromyalgia, an increased use of medications, and have more physically demanding jobs.  The study, “Disability in Fibromyalgia Associates with Symptom Severity and Occupation Characteristics,” was published in The Journal of Rheumatology.

Disability as a consequence of illness is generally reflected in the severity of the illness. Because disability rates for fibromyalgia are high in the developed world, researchers studied disease and work characteristics for fibromyalgia patients who were working, unemployed, or receiving disability payments for disability as a consequence of fibromyalgia.

A total of 248 Canadian patients suffering from fibromyalgia who were registered into a database from July 2005 were involved in the study. The mean age of patients was 47.9 years, mean disease duration was 10.8 years, and 91 percent of patients were female.

Study participants belonged to three groups: 90 people were employed; 81 were unemployed for reasons not related to fibromyalgia; and 77 received work disability compensation from a private or public insurer attributable to fibromyalgia. The 30 percent disability rate among fibromyalgia patients in Canada was about the same as fibromyalgia patients in the United States and Europe.

In the study from Canada, significant differences were found among the three groups. The disabled group tended to be older, reported more severe symptoms, used more medication (and used more opioids or tranquilizers), and were more likely to have worked in a physically demanding occupation. Smoking was also more common within the disabled group.

Researchers showed that antidepressants were taken by 61 percent of disabled patients, 64 percent of unemployed patients, and 44 percent of employed patients.

Patient Global Assessment (PtGA), the Pain Disability Index, the McGill Pain Questionnaire, Health Assessment Questionnaire scores, and pain on the VAS were higher in the disabled group.

Older age and PtGA were associated with a larger likelihood of disability, while longer pain duration and a higher level of education were linked with a lower possibility of disability.

The authors note that the study results should be interpreted cautiously because no causal inference can be made due to the cross-sectional design of the analysis and due to the unknown length of time of the disability.