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Population based study of fatigue & psychological distress

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OBJECTIVES–To determine the prevalence of fatigue in the general

population and the factors associated with fatigue.

DESIGN–Postal survey.

SETTING–Six general practices in

southern England.

SUBJECTS–31,651 men and women aged 18-45

years registered with the practices.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES–Responses to the 12 item general health

questionnaire and a fatigue questionnaire which included self

reported measures of duration, severity, and causes of


RESULTS–15,283 valid questionnaires were returned,

giving a response rate of 48.3%, (64% after adjustment for

inaccuracies in the practice registers). 2798 (18.3%) of

respondents reported substantial fatigue lasting six months or

longer. Fatigue and psychological morbidity were moderately

correlated (r = 0.62). Women were more likely to complain of

fatigue than men, even after adjustment for psychological

distress. The commonest cited reasons for fatigue were

psychosocial (40% of patients). Of 2798 patients with

excessive tiredness, only 38 (1.4%) attributed this to the

chronic fatigue syndrome.

CONCLUSION–Fatigue is distributed as a continuous

variable in the community and is closely associated with

psychological morbidity. {MCMStrSt}

Pawlikowska T, Chalder T, Wallace P,Wessely SC, Wright DJ, Hirsch SR

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