Importance of genetic influences on chronic widespread pain

Arthritis Rheum. 2006 May;54(5):1682-6. doi: 10.1002/art.21798.


Objective: To estimate the relative importance of genetic and environmental factors in chronic widespread pain, and to assess whether there are sex differences in the type or magnitude of these influences.

Methods: Data were collected from a national sample of twins > or = 42 years of age, all of whom were participants in the Swedish Twin Registry. The presence of chronic widespread pain was assessed via computer-assisted telephone interviews, which were conducted between 1998 and 2002, using the American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia. No clinical examinations were performed. In preliminary analyses, probandwise concordance rates and tetrachoric correlations were calculated. Structural equation modeling was then performed to estimate additive genetic, shared environmental, and nonshared environmental sources of variability in susceptibility for the development of chronic widespread pain.

Results: Of 61,355 eligible twins, 44,897 individuals (73.2%) responded to the interview. Both members of 15,950 pairs responded to the items regarding pain symptoms; of these pairs, 4,170 were monozygotic, 5,881 were same-sex dizygotic, and 5,755 were opposite-sex dizygotic. The prevalence of chronic widespread pain was 4.1%, and the ratio of women to men was 3.3 to 1. Probandwise concordance rates and tetrachoric correlations suggested modest genetic influences for both women and men. Genetic and shared environmental influences explained approximately half of the total variance, with no indication of sex differences in either the type or magnitude of these influences.

Conclusion: Individual differences in the likelihood of developing chronic widespread pain reflect modest genetic influences. There are no significant sex differences in the type or expression of the genes responsible for chronic widespread pain or in the magnitude of the relative importance of these influences on chronic widespread pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Diseases in Twins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / genetics*
  • Sex Factors