Editorials

Chronic fatigue syndrome: prevalence and outcome

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.308.6931.732 (Published 19 March 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:732
  1. S M Lawrie,
  2. A J Pelosi

    This week's journal contains two papers from multidisciplinary teams that shed light on syndromes of chronic fatigue and so move us towards resolving the often bitter controversy over myalgic encephalomyelitis. A large community survey by Pawlikowska and colleagues provides estimates of the prevalence of the symptom of fatigue,1 operationally defined chronic fatigue syndrome,2 and self declared (possibly self diagnosed) chronic fatigue syndrome in young and middle aged adults in south east England (p 763).1

    They found that fatigue was common, occurred as a continuum, and was highly correlated with emotional distress. Most people attributed their fatigue to social or psychological factors. While 0.2% of the respondents reported that they had chronic fatigue syndrome, as many as 1% of respondents satisfied several of the criteria for the syndrome. As with many illnesses, the cases were found at the severe end of the continuum of fatigue, without any sharp cut off. Associations of self reported chronic fatigue syndrome with female sex and upper social class confirm what has been found in primary care and hospital studies3,4 but are less typical in community surveys.5,6 Previous studies have consistently identified a strong association between emotional …

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