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Factor analysis of unexplained severe fatigue & interrelated symptoms: overlap with criteria for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

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By Nisenbaum R, Reyes M, Mawle AC, Reeves WC • www.ProHealth.com • July 1, 1998


The objective of this study was to identify factors explaining the
correlations among unexplained severe fatigue of different
durations (1- 5 months or > or =6 months) and symptoms
reported as being significant health problems during a
preceding 4-week period. Between June and December of 1994, a
cross-sectional, random digit dialing telephone survey was
conducted among residents of San Francisco, California. All
subjects who reported having severe fatigue lasting for > or
=1 month and a random sample of nonfatigued subjects were
asked to participate in a detailed telephone interview. Data
from 1,510 individuals aged 18- 60 years who did not have
medical or psychiatric conditions that could explain their
severe fatigue were analyzed. Common factor analyses
identified three correlated factors (defined as "fatigue-mood-
cognition" symptoms, "flu-type" symptoms, and "visual
impairment") that explained the correlations among fatigue
lasting for > or =6 months and 14 interrelated symptoms. No
factor explained the correlations among fatigue lasting for
1-5 months and other symptoms. The combination of fatigue of >
or =6 months' duration and selected symptoms overlaps with
published criteria used to define cases of chronic fatigue
syndrome (CFS). Although symptoms described in this study were
reported as appearing within the preceding month, and CFS
symptoms must have been present for the previous 6 months,
these results provide empirical support for the interrelations
among unexplained fatigue of > or =6 months' duration and
symptoms included in the CFS case definition.




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