The Relation of Physical Comorbidity and Multimorbidity to Fibromyalgia, Widespread Pain, and Fibromyalgia-related Variables

Frederick Wolfe*, Jacob Ablin, Emma K. Guymer, Geoffrey O. Littlejohn, Johannes J. Rasker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective. To investigate the relation of physical (non-psychological) comorbidity and multimorbidity to quantitative measures of fibromyalgia (FM) and musculoskeletal pain. Methods.We studied 12,215 patients in a research databank with quantitative measures of FM-related variables (FMV) that included binary determinations of FM and widespread pain (WSP), and constituent variables of FM diagnosis that included the WSP index (WPI), the symptom severity score (SSS), and the polysymptomatic distress scale (PSD). We assessed self-reported comorbid conditions and covariates that included age, sex, body mass index, hypertension, smoking history, and total household income. We used nearest-neighbor matching and regression adjustment treatment effects models to measure the effect of comorbidities on FMV. Results.We found a positive association between FMV and the probability of having each comorbid condition. Patients with ≥ 1 comorbidities had PSD, WPI, and SSS increases of 3.0 (95% CI 2.7-3.3), 1.8 (95% CI 1.6-2.0), and 1.2 (95% CI 1.1-1.3) units, respectively, and an increase in FM prevalence from 20.4% to 32.6%. As the number of comorbid conditions present increased from 1 to 4 or more, PSD, WPI, SSS, and FM percent increased stepwise. For patients with ≥ 4 conditions, the predicted prevalence of FM was 55.2%. Conclusion. FM and FMV are associated with an increase in the number of comorbidities, and the association can be measured quantitatively. However, the association of WSP and FM may be an effect of definitions of WSP and FM, because comorbidity increases are also present with subsyndromal levels of both conditions. (First Release December 15 2019; J Rheumatol 2020;47:624-31; doi:10.3899/jrheum.190149).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-631
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Rheumatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • Comorbidity
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Pain


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