Fibromyalgia Patients At Increased Risk of Suicide and Accidental Dealth
A study published in the January 2011 issue of Arthritis Care & Research found that although fibromyalgia patients are not at increased risk for mortality, they do have a greater risk of dying by suicide or accident.
Researchers compared 8,186 patients who had been seen for fibromyalgia in the 35 years between 1974 and 2009 with 10,087 osteoarthritis patients to determine if mortality is increased for people with FM.
They found no difference in the mortality rate between the two illnesses. However, when compared with the U.S. general population, the FM patients were at increased risk for suicide and accidental death. Another finding worth noting: there was no increase in the rate of cancer for FM patients as compared with the general population.
These study results struck me as a classic case of ‘good news/bad news.’ The good news is that what the medical professionals have been telling us all along is true - fibromyalgia is not a terminal illness. Unfortunately, the bad news is that we do have a higher risk of dying from an accident or suicide.
Needless to say, I’m happy about the good news. As far as the bad news aspect goes, I’m not really surprised. Although I don’t have any statistics, I suspect that the suicide rate among FM patients is probably very similar to that of any chronic pain illness. Sadly, when pain is not adequately controlled for a long period of time, it becomes harder and harder to hang on to hope.
The increased risk of death from an accident is also not surprising. So many features of fibromyalgia put us at greater risk for accidents. Balance and coordination are so often affected. A number of FM patients report falling more frequently.
Perhaps the biggest culprit contributing to accidents in the FM community is cognitive functioning difficulties, also known as fibrofog. Things like forgetting that we have a pan cooking on the stove or losing our focus when we’re driving are huge risk factors for accidents.
All in all, an interesting and thought-provoking study.
Wolfe F, et al. Mortality in fibromyalgia: a study of 8,186 patients over thirty-five years. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2011 Jan;63(1):94-101.
Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.