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Ethnocultural and educational differences in Israeli women correlate with pain perception in fibromyalgia.

OBJECTIVE: To compare the clinical features of patients with fibromyalgia (FM) in 2 ethnic groups in Israel.

METHODS: One hundred women with FM participated in the study; 70 were of Sephardic (Mediterranean) origin and 30 of Ashkenazic (European-American) origin. Assessment of FM related symptoms, tenderness, quality of life, and physical functioning was conducted in all subjects. Analysis of covariance and multivariate regression were performed to study the association between these measures and ethnicity, controlling for age and education.

RESULTS: Sephardic patients with FM reported more frequent and more severe symptoms than Ashkenazic patients. They had higher point counts and decreased quality of life. When the patients were divided into 2 age groups (age 45 being the cutoff point), the differences were observed only among the older subjects, most of whom were immigrants. Sephardic older patients had significantly higher point counts than Ashkenazic patients, and lower tenderness thresholds. They reported significantly higher levels of pain, fatigue, and stiffness, and were less satisfied with their life. However, these differences observed between the 2 ethnic groups in the univariate data analysis disappeared when age and education were jointly controlled in multivariate regression analysis. Age had significantly contributed to the variation in the point count, the reported pain, and physical functioning. Education made a significant contribution in explaining the point count, quality of life, pain, and fatigue.

CONCLUSION: Education, rather than ethnic identity, has been found to be an important factor in clinical features of FM. Future studies should include ethnocultural and educational assessment, especially in countries with high immigration rates and diverse ethnic groups, such as the USA and Canada.

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