The Impact of a Peer Social Support Network from the Perspective of Women with Fibromyalgia: A Qualitative Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Dec 4;18(23):12801. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182312801.


Background: Fibromyalgia is a chronic and complex disease whose management by patients requires a high level of commitment. Patient empowerment therefore represents an important milestone in chronic disease treatment and control. We explored the impact of a peer social support network from the perspective of women with fibromyalgia.

Methods: A generic qualitative design was proposed for the study, for which women who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia were purposefully selected. Six semi-structured interviews were conducted, and the collected data were thematically analysed.

Results: Three key themes emerged regarding the peer social support network: (1) empowerment (facilitating acceptance of the diagnosis and acting as a source of information); (2) effects on well-being and quality of life (attenuated the stigma, improved physical well-being, provided emotional support and was a socialization medium); and (3), valuable aspects (transmitted feelings of being understood and listened to and increased personal feelings of satisfaction).

Conclusions: A peer social support network for women with fibromyalgia exerts positive effects on their physical, mental, and social well-being and empowers them to better manage their disease. Healthcare for women with fibromyalgia should include strategies that connect them through peer social support networks.

Keywords: chronic disease; fibromyalgia; long-term condition; qualitative study; social support; social support network.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia*
  • Humans
  • Peer Group
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Support