Employment and health status changes among women with fibromyalgia: A five-year study




To assess changes in health status of women with fibromyalgia (FM) over 5 years and determine whether baseline employment status influences health outcomes adjusting for other baseline factors.


Two hundred eighty-seven women with FM were recruited from a national sample of rheumatologists and interviewed by phone at baseline and annually for 4 years. Data were collected on pain, fatigue, Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale and Modified Health Assessment Questionnaire (M-HAQ) scores, demographic characteristics, and employment status. At the end of the study, 211 participants remained. Data were analyzed using multilevel modeling techniques. Bootstrap methods adjusted for the cluster sampling.


The participants' mean ± SD age was 47 ± 11 years, their mean ± SD education level was 14 ± 2 years, 90% were white, 50% employed, 64% married, and their median household income was ≥$50,000. Mean ± SD scores at baseline were 57.2 ± 24 for pain, 75.4 ± 22 for fatigue, 22.9 ± 13 for depression, and 0.73 ± 0.5 for the M-HAQ. Multilevel modeling indicated that all health status measures declined significantly over time except for pain. Rates of change varied from −1.22 for fatigue to −0.03 for the M-HAQ. Except for pain, patients who were employed at baseline had better health status over time. The employment and time interaction was not significant, indicating that health status changed at the same rate regardless of employment status. Other significant factors were age and income.


Employed women with FM have better health status at baseline and maintain that advantage over time. Employment does not seem to provide a protective health benefit.