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Etiology of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Testing Popular Hypotheses Using a National Birth Cohort Study - Source: Psychosomatic Medicine, Mar 31 2008

  [ 47 votes ]   [ 1 Comment ]
By SB Harvey, et al. • www.ProHealth.com • April 16, 2008


Objective: To review the etiology of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and test hypotheses relating to immune system dysfunction, physical deconditioning, exercise avoidance, and childhood illness experiences, using a large prospective birth cohort.

Methods: A total of 4779 participants from the Medical Research Council's National Survey of Health and Development were prospectively followed for the first 53 years of their life with more than 20 separate data collections. Information was collected on childhood and parental health, atopic illness [e.g., allergies, eczema, asthma], levels of physical activity, fatigue, and participant's weight and height at multiple time points. CFS was identified through self-report during a semistructured interview at age 53 years with additional case notes review.

Results: Of 2983 participants assessed at age 53 years, 34 (1.1%, 95% Confidence Interval 0.8-1.5) reported a diagnosis of CFS. Those who reported CFS were no more likely to have suffered from childhood illness or atopy. Increased levels of exercise throughout childhood and early adult life and a lower body mass index were associated with an increased risk of later CFS. Participants who later reported CFS continued to exercise more frequently even after they began to experience early symptoms of fatigue.

Conclusions: Individuals who exercise frequently are more likely to report a diagnosis of CFS in later life. This may be due to the direct effects of this behavior or associated personality factors. Continuing to be active despite increasing fatigue may be a crucial step in the development of CFS.

[Note: to read more about this study's details, implications, and limitations, see the commentary by CFIDS Association Research Director Suzanne Vernon, PhD - "Etiology, Exercise, and CFS."]

Source: Psychosomatic Medicine, Mar 31 2008. [E-pub ahead of print] PMID: 18378866. Harvey SB, Wadsworth M, Wessely S, Hotopf M. Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK; Medical Research Council's National Survey of Health and Development (M.W.), Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Royal Free and UCL Medical School, London, UK.





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Article Comments Post a Comment

Oh, this is my favorite article yet...
Posted by: Juloo
May 7, 2008
Quote: "Conclusions: Individuals who exercise frequently are more likely to report a diagnosis of CFS in later life. This may be due to the direct effects of this behavior or associated personality factors. Continuing to be active despite increasing fatigue may be a crucial step in the development of CFS." So, the study began with the notion that people who were sick or lazy in childhood were more likely to have CFS as adults. But what they actually found was the CFS developed in people who had active lives. AND, instead of 'falling' into CFS by giving in to pain and fatigue, it was the ones who pushed through that somehow DID THIS TO THEMSELVES. So what the doctors and other well-meaning individuals tell us to do -- stay active, work through the pain or fatigue, don't get lazy, mind over body, etc. -- actually harms us in the long run? And "associated personality factors" -- what the heck is that supposed to mean?! Why not "associated viral factors" or something to that effect? If you're asking the wrong questions, you'll usually get the wrong answers.
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