Prevalence of chronic fatigue and chemical sensitivities in Gulf Registry Veterans

Arch Environ Health. 1999 Sep-Oct;54(5):313-8. doi: 10.1080/00039899909602493.


More than 68000 of the 700000 veterans of the Gulf War have become members of the Veteran Affairs' Gulf War Registry. In 1995, we undertook a questionnaire study of the symptoms and medical histories reported by a randomly selected subsample of 1935 of these veterans to characterize their complaints. All results reported were based on questionnaire responses without face-to-face evaluation or physical examinations. Inasmuch as initial registry symptoms overlapped those of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, we also included standard questions for these syndromes in the questionnaire. A total of 1161 (60%) individuals responded, and there were no major demographic biases; therefore, 15.7% of registry veterans qualified for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in accordance with the 1994 Centers for Disease Control definition. In addition, 13.1% qualified for multiple chemical sensitivities in accordance with a widely used definition, and 3.3% of the respondents had both conditions. There were no effects of gender, race, branch, duty status (active or reserve), or rank, although Multiple Chemical Sensitivities was somewhat more prevalent in women and African Americans. The data gleaned in this study suggested that the unexplained symptom syndromes of Chronic Fatigue and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities may characterize an appreciable portion of the complaints of those who volunteered for the Veterans Affairs' Gulf War Registry, and further investigation is warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Persian Gulf Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*