Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Professional and popular views of chronic fatigue syndrome

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 19 March 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:776
  1. G MacLean,
  2. S Wessely
  1. Academic Department of Psychological Medicine, King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry, Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RS
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Wessely


    Objective : To study the coverage of the chronic fatigue syndrome in the popular and professional press.

    Design : Search of all original research papers on the chronic fatigue syndrome published in British journals from 1980 onwards and of professional trade papers, national newspapers, and women's magazines. Interviews with six medical journalists.

    Setting : British scientific, medical, and popular press.

    Results : 37 (49%) articles in research journals did not favour organic causes and 23 (31%) favoured organic causes. By contrast 31 (55%) articles in the medical trade press and 118 (69%) in national newspapers and women's magazines favoured organic causes.

    Conclusions : Press coverage of chronic fatigue syndrome has amplified and distorted divisions in the research community concerning the chronic fatigue syndrome. Articles in the press concentrate on a simple medical model of illness reinforcing the stigma of psychological illness and dissatisfaction with traditional medical authority.

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