Background: Most knowledge on chronic fatigue (CF) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is based on clinical studies, not representative of the general population. This study aimed to assess the prevalence of fatigue in an adult general population and to identify associations with lifestyle factors.
Methods: Total 22,500 residents of Nijmegen were selected at random and interviewed by questionnaire. Data on 9,062 respondents (43% response) were analyzed, taken into account age, gender and concomitant disease. Subjects were classified into four groups:
• Not fatigued (NF, reference group),
• Short-term fatigue (SF, less than 6 months),
• Chronic fatigue (CF, 6 months or more) and
• CFS-like fatigue (in accordance with the Center for Disease Control criteria for CFS, without clinical confirmation).
Results: Our study population showed the following breakdown:
• Not fatigued 64.4% (95% CI 63.6-65.6%),
• Short-term fatigue 4.9% (95% CI 4.5-5.4%),
• Chronic fatigue 30.5% (95% CI 29.5-31.4%) and
• CFS-like fatigue 1.0% (95% CI 0.8-1.2%).
Compared with the not fatigued group, more of the CFS respondents were female [odds ratio (OR) = 1.9], obese (OR = 4.1), using analgesics (OR = 7.8), had a low alcohol intake (OR = 0.4), were eating less healthy food (OR = 0.5) and were physically less active (OR = 0.1).
These associations largely applied to the short-term fatigue and chronic fatigue group.
The fatigue could have been due to a concomitant disease in 34% and 55.5% of the short-term fatigue and chronic fatigue cases, respectively.
Conclusion: The prevalence of chronic fatigue in the general population appears to be much higher than previously indicated.
Even with strict [CDC] criteria for CFS, it is estimated that approximately 1% of the adult population experiences this condition.
Interestingly, a large part of this group remains unrecognized by the general practitioner. A striking similarity in lifestyle pattern between short-term fatigue, chronic fatigue and CFS calls for further research.
Source: European Journal of Public Health, Aug 18, 2009. PMID: 19689970, by Van't Leven M, Zielhuis GA, van der Meer JW, Verbeek AL, Bleijenberg G. Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and HTA; Expert Centre Chronic Fatigue; Department of Internal Medicine, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, the Netherlands. [E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org]