Association of employment and working conditions with physical and mental health symptoms for people with fibromyalgia

Carter Rakovski, Laura Zettel-Watson, Dana Rutledge
Disability and Rehabilitation 2012, 34 (15): 1277-83

PURPOSE: This study examines physical and mental health symptoms among people with fibromyalgia (FM) by employment status and working conditions.

METHOD: Secondary data analysis of the 2007 National Fibromyalgia Association Questionnaire study resulted in employment and symptom information for 1702 people of working age with FM. In this cross-sectional internet study, six factors of symptom clusters (physical, mental health, sleeping, concentration, musculoskeletal, support) were seen in the data. Linear regression models used employment, age, income, gender, and education to predict symptom clusters. Among those employed, working conditions were also associated with symptom severity.

RESULTS: In the predominately female sample, 51% were working. Of these, 70% worked over 30 hours/week and half had flexible hours. Employment, higher income, and education were strongly associated with fewer symptoms. Working conditions, including level of physical and mental exertion required on the job as well as coworkers' understanding of FM, were related to symptoms, particularly physical and mental health symptoms. Many participants reported modifying their work environment (66%) or changing occupations (33%) due to FM.

CONCLUSIONS: Work modifications could allow more people with FM to remain employed and alleviate symptoms. Persons with FM should be counseled to consider what elements of their work may lead to symptom exacerbation.

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