Fibromyalgia symptoms, physical function, and comorbidity in middle-aged and older adults

Casey R. Shillam, Kim Dupree Jones, Lois Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Multiple studies report on symptoms or physical function in people with fibromyalgia; however, limited studies have been focused on older adults with fibromyalgia. Objectives: The aims of this study were to describe the occurrence, frequency, severity, and distress of symptoms and to examine differences in symptoms and physical function between a middle-aged and an older group. Method: Questionnaires were mailed to a random sample of 533 adults with fibromyalgia over 50 years of age, using a large tertiary care database. These questionnaires included an investigator-developed 29-item symptom questionnaire that measured the frequency (1-4), severity (1-4), and distress (0-4) of FM symptoms. The participants also completed the Late Life Function and Disability Instrument and the Charlson Comorbidity Index. Results: Fifty-three percent of the sample reported at least 20 symptoms in the last 7 days. The most frequent and severe symptoms were pain, nonrefreshing sleep, fatigue, stiffness, difficulty staying asleep, difficulty falling asleep, and profuse sweating. The most distressing symptoms were fear of symptoms worsening, followed by difficulty staying asleep, fatigue, nonrefreshing sleep, and restless legs. Participants reported moderate functional limitations (M ± SD = 52.7 ± 9.0). Comorbidities were low (1.7 ± 1.5; range = 0-7). The middle-aged group experienced a greater number of total symptoms (21.4 ± 5.9 vs. 19.3 ± 5.2; p < .01). Discussion: Middle-aged adults with fibromyalgia were more symptomatic than older adults. Further study is needed to understand the relationship between fibromyalgia symptoms and age and physical function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)309-317
Number of pages9
JournalNursing research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • aged
  • comorbidity
  • fibromyalgia
  • physical function
  • signs and symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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