This study investigated psychosocial morbidity, coping styles and
health locus of control in 64 cases with and without chronic
fatigue identified from a cohort of primary care patients
recruited 6 months previously with a presumed, clinically
diagnosed viral illness. A significant association between
chronic fatigue and psychosocial morbidity, somatic symptoms
and escape-avoidance coping styles was shown. Chronic fatigue
cases were significantly more likely to have a past
psychiatric history and a current psychiatric diagnosis based
on a standardized clinical interview. Twenty-three of the
cases fulfilled criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Such cases were significantly more fatigued than those not
fulfilling criteria, but had little excess psychiatric
disorder. A principal components analysis provided some
evidence for chronic fatigue being separable from general
psychosocial morbidity but not from the tendency to have
other somatic complaints. Past psychiatric history and
psychological distress at the time of the viral illness were
risk factors for psychiatric ‘caseness’ 6 months later, while
presence of fatigue, psychologising attributional style and
sick certification were significant risk factors for CFS.
These findings extend a previous questionnaire study of
predictors of chronic ‘post-viral’ fatigue.