A Natural History Study of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Source: Rehabilitation Psychology, Feb 2011

Objective: There is a need for natural history chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) studies from random, community-based, multi-ethnic populations. [That is, not cases selected from a population who had consulted and been diagnosed by doctors, and so not a group ‘biased’ toward ‘help-seeking behavior’.]

The present study examined the course of CFS from Wave 1 [1995-1997] to Wave 2 [the same group about 10 years later], which spanned a 10-year period of time, and assessed whether socio-environmental and symptomatology factors were associated with CFS status over the 10-year period.


• There was relative stability over time on critical measures of disability, fatigue, support, optimism and coping.

• One cardinal symptom of CFS, post-exertional malaise, best differentiated the CFS group from the others.

• By Wave 2, of the original group of 32 individuals diagnosed with CFS, 4 had died, and 24 were found and agreed to be re-evaluated, and of this group:

– 16 continued to have CFS,

– 5 developed exclusionary illnesses [that may account for or confuse cause of symptoms, such as chronic hepatitis C, hypothyroidism or diabetes, at least until adequately treated]

– 2 were classified as idiopathic chronic fatigue [symptoms don’t match criteria for CFS and cause remains ‘unknown’],

– And 1 had remitted.

Conclusions: The current study found that over time in a community-based sample – unbiased by help seeking behavior – the CFS group remained rather ill with a variety of different conditions.

Source: Rehabilitation Psychology, Feb 2011;56(1):32-42. PMID: 21401284, by Jason LA, Porter N, Hunnell J, Brown A, Rademaker A, Richman JA. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

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