Traumatic experiences, major life stressors, and self-reporting a physician-given fibromyalgia diagnosis

Psychiatry Res. 2010 May 30;177(3):335-41. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2009.08.017. Epub 2010 Apr 10.


The contribution of stress to the pathophysiology of fibromyalgia has been the subject of considerable debate. The primary purpose of the present study was to evaluate the relationship between traumatic and major life stressors and a fibromyalgia diagnosis in a large group of older women and men. Data were from the federally funded Biopsychosocial Religion and Health Study, and subjects were 10,424 of the 10,988 survey respondents-two-thirds women and one-third men-providing responses to a fibromyalgia question. Average age was 61.0+/-13.5 years. A physician-given fibromyalgia diagnosis in a subject's lifetime was reported by 3.7% of the sample, 4.8% of the women and 1.3% of the men. In two multivariable logistic regression models (all respondents and women only, controlling for age, sex, race/ethnicity, and education), two traumatic experience types (sexual and physical assault/abuse) were associated with a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Two other trauma types (life-threatening and emotional abuse/neglect) and major life stress experiences were not. The highest odds ratios in both models were those for sexual assault/abuse followed by physical assault/abuse. The relationship between age and fibromyalgia was curvilinear in both models (odds ratios rising until approximately age 63 and declining thereafter). In the all-subjects model, being a woman increased the odds of a fibromyalgia diagnosis, and in both models, fibromyalgia was associated with being White (versus non-White) and lower education. We recommend that researchers investigate the relationship between stress and fibromyalgia in concert with genetic and biomarker studies.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia* / diagnosis
  • Fibromyalgia* / epidemiology
  • Fibromyalgia* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology