Better spousal relationships can effectively improve the quality of life in fibromyalgia patients, researchers have found.
The study, “The role of spousal relationships in fibromyalgia patients’ quality of life,” was published in the journal Psychology, Health & Medicine.
Fibromyalgia is a pain disorder that affects several aspects of patients’ lifes, including physical quality of life (QoL), mental QoL, finances, and relationships. Patients have to find ways to cope with fibromyalgia’s heavy burden, which can also have an impact on their quality of life.
Many patients tend to have a more passive attitude toward managing their fibromyalgia-associated pain. While is not clear if this passive strategy benefits the patient, it may have negative effects on the patient’s mental health.
Patients who take a more active approach by using exercise or meditation reported they were more in control of their symptoms and have a better quality of life, despite having more pain.
“[Fibromyalgia] patients who utilize more passive coping skills feel less in control of their pain than [fibromyalgia] patients who utilize more active coping skills,” researchers wrote.
The quality of spousal relationships has been shown to change patients’ outcomes in a number of diseases. Similar to other chronic illnesses, improved communication between couples about fibromyalgia and its related issues has seen to be a protective factor. But little is known if this positive effect can overcome the negative consequences of passive coping.
A team evaluated the impact of coping styles and relationship quality on fibromyalgia patients’ quality of life. The study included 204 patients with fibromyalgia, who had, on average, a low physical and mental QoL.
Patients were asked to fill out several questionnaires that would allow researchers to evaluate their coping style, relationship with their spouses, the impact of fibromyalgia on their lives, and their quality of life.
An analysis of their responses showed there was no association between physical quality of life and the patients’ coping style or the quality of the spousal relationship.
Still, physical QoL was found to be more negatively affected in patients who had more pain, had lived with the disease longer, and who had more severe fibromyalgia symptoms.
As in previous reports, researchers found that coping style was significantly associated with patients’ mental QoL. Patients who had a more passive coping style were seen to have a worse mental QoL. And those who reported a better relationship with their spouse also had a significantly better mental QoL.
The research team believes these results “emphasize the importance of coping styles and relationship quality between patients and their spouses in [fibromyalgia].”
Incorporating strategies to improve patients’ relationships “as part of a more holistic approach to care” can help improve patient outcomes, the researchers suggested.