Spotlight on Research 2007

August 2007 (historical)

Juvenile Fibromyalgia Affects Social Functioning and Peer Relationships

New research suggests that adolescents with fibromyalgia are more likely than their peers to experience social problems like isolation and peer rejection, which may result in increased anxiety, social withdrawal and mood difficulties. This research was supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, and was published recently in Arthritis and Rheumatism.

Susmita Kashikar-Zuck, Ph.D., of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and her colleagues at the center and several other institutions, recruited 55 adolescents with juvenile primary fibromyalgia syndrome (JPFS) and matched them with classroom peers who didn't have a chronic illness. Each adolescent was matched according to his or her age, gender, race or ethnicity, and classroom. The researchers collected data from teachers, peers and the participants in a classroom setting without acknowledging JPFS involvement.

The research indicated that adolescents with JPFS were consistently rated by teachers, peers and themselves as more sensitive and isolated. These adolescents were rated by their classmates as having fewer popularity and leadership qualities. They also had significantly fewer reciprocated friendships than peers without chronic illness.

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that causes significant pain and fatigue, which interfere with a person's ability to carry on daily activities. When diagnosed in adolescents, it is called JPFS. It typically begins in girls at ages 13-15.

The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health, is to support research into the causes, treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information about NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS Web site at

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Kashikar-Zuck S, et al. Social functioning and peer relationships of adolescents with juvenile fibromyalgia syndrome. Arthritis & Rheumatism 2007;57:474-480.