Work and disability status of persons with fibromyalgia

J Rheumatol. 1997 Jun;24(6):1171-8.


Objective: To determine the prevalence and determinants of self-reported work disability in persons with fibromyalgia (FM).

Methods: A longitudinal, multicenter survey of 1604 patients with FM from 6 centers with diverse socioeconomic characteristics was begun in 1988. Assessments were by self-report questionnaire and telephone contact, and included work and disability events that occurred before and after 1988. Comparative analyses were performed on the entire data set and, separately, on the Wichita data set.

Results: More than 16% of patients reported receiving US Social Security disability (SSD) payments (highest center rate 35.7%; lowest center rate 6.3%) compared to 2.2% of the US population (US Social Security Administration data) and 28.9% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis seen at the Wichita outpatient rheumatology clinic. Overall, 26.5% reported receiving at least one form of disability payment when SSD and other sources of disability payments were considered. In Wichita, less than 25% of SSD awards were made specifically for FM, but after 1988 that figure increased to 46.4%. Work disability was greatest at the San Antonio and Los Angeles centers. Multivariate predictors (correlates) included pain, Health Assessment Questionnaire disability, and unmarried status. In addition, more than 70% of patients reporting being disabled did receive disability payments. On the other hand, 64% reported being able to work all or most days, and more than 70% were employed or were homemakers.

Conclusion: Although most patients (64%) report being able to work, we found high rates of self-reported work disability awards among persons with FM followed in 6 rheumatology centers. But we also found great variability among centers as to awards and as to self-reported work ability. Center differences in work disability might reflect clinic referral patterns, physician beliefs, or socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia* / epidemiology
  • Fibromyalgia* / physiopathology
  • Fibromyalgia* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Work Capacity Evaluation