Childhood risk factors for developing fibromyalgia

Open Access Rheumatol. 2012 Dec 17:4:109-114. doi: 10.2147/OARRR.S36086. eCollection 2012.


Background: Fibromyalgia is a disease process without an obvious etiology. While some evidence suggests that adverse experiences in childhood contribute to its development, specific evidence has been equivocal.

Methods: A total of 36 patients with fibromyalgia from the greater New York area were recruited and surveyed using the Centers for Disease Control's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, and questions from the section on adverse childhood experiences were administered. The results were compared to those obtained from over 400,000 people surveyed by the Centers for Disease control each year, and were monitored for statistically significant differences.

Results: A statistically significant difference was noted among the control group, suggesting that individuals reported growing up with someone who was depressed when the respondents were between the ages of 0 and 18 years old. Moreover, respondents reported that they were hit by their parents in some way, were insulted or cursed at by their parents, and had been forced to have sex with someone at least 5 years older than them or with an adult. No correlation was found with the following variables and the development of fibromyalgia: growing up with divorced or separated parents; growing up with someone sentenced to serve time in jail; or having parents that abused each other. Additionally, statistically significant differences were found for the following categories: lack of emotional support; life dissatisfaction; fair or poor health; physical, mental or emotional disability; and being divorced or not married.

Discussion: Using this well-validated survey, it became clear that at least six specific adverse childhood experiences were correlated with the development of fibromyalgia. Data pertaining to disability, quality of life, life satisfaction, number of days of depression, emotional support, and marriage status illustrated the extent of subjective disability that these patients feel every day.

Keywords: adverse childhood events; fibromyalgia; risk factors.