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Chronic fatigue in the community: 'a question of attribution'

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By Chalder T, Power MJ, Wessely S • www.ProHealth.com • July 10, 1996


Thirty-eight subjects identified in a large community survey
were found to attribute their fatigue to 'myalgic
encephalomyelitis' (ME). They were matched randomly to two
other groups of subjects who attributed their fatigue to
either psychological or social factors. All three groups were
followed up 18 months later and were asked to complete a
series of questionnaires that examined fatigue, psychological
distress, number of symptoms, attributional style and levels
of disability. At onset the 'ME' group were found to be more
fatigued, had been tired for longer but were less
psychologically distressed than the other two groups. At
follow-up the 'ME' group were more handicapped in relation to
home, work, social and private leisure activities, even when
controlling for both duration of fatigue and fatigue at time
1, but were less psychologically distressed. The
relationships between psychological distress, specific illness
attributions, attributional style and their effect on the
experience of illness and its prognosis are discussed.
Attributing fatigue to social reasons appears to be most
protective.




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