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Keywords:

  • Fibromyalgia;
  • Psychosocial;
  • Social network;
  • Social support;
  • Social integration

Abstract

Objective. To assess structural social network characteristics and perceived loneliness in fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) patients and healthy controls.

Methods. A cross-sectional, retrospective, case-control design was employed using a structured interview and a self-report questionnaire. We studied 25 female FMS patients and 25 matched healthy female controls.

Results. FMS patients had statistically significantly (P < 0.05) more intimate friends (mean 4.5) and more health care providers (mean 1.5) than did controls (2.3 and 0.0, respectively). The FMS patients more often initiated the contact with family members (mean 2.1) than did controls (mean 0.8). FMS patients did not perceive themselves as lonelier than controls perceived themselves. While there was a significant negative correlation between loneliness and social network variables among the controls, this relationship was not significant among the FMS patients. Among the patients, there was a strong correlation between the total social network size and the number of intimate friends, whereas in controls, the mean number of acquaintances was strongly correlated with the total network size.

Conclusion. Compared to healthy controls, the social networks of FMS patients presented more linkages with intimate friends, family members, and health care providers. The lack of correlation between loneliness and social network variables for FMS patients is not what might be expected from social support theory. The assessment of structural social network characteristics along with social support variables may add to our understanding of the social functioning of FMS patients.