OBJECTIVES: This study examined the prevalence and public
health impact of chronic fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome
in primary care patients in England.
METHODS: There were 2376
subjects, aged 18 through 45 years. Of 214 subjects who
fulfilled criteria for chronic fatigue, 185 (86%) were
interviewed in the case-control study. Measures included
chronic fatigue, psychological morbidity, depression, anxiety,
somatic symptoms, symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome,
functional impairment, and psychiatric disorder.
point prevalence of chronic fatigue was 11.3%, falling to 4.1%
if comorbid psychological disorders were excluded. The point
prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome was 2.6%, falling to
0.5% if comorbid psychological disorders were excluded. Rates
did not vary by social class. After adjustment for
psychological disorder, being female was modestly associated
with chronic fatigue. Functional impairment was profound and
was associated with psychological disorder.
chronic fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome are common in
primary care patients and represent a considerable public
health burden. Selection bias may account for previous
suggestions of a link with higher socioeconomic status.