Background: Fatigue is an important symptom in general practice due to its association with physical, psychological and social problems.
Aim: To determine the prevalence of fatigue as an unsolicited symptom during general practice consultations.
Methods: A random sample of GPs practising in Ireland was invited to provide data on consultations held over one day. Data were recorded on the presence of fatigue as a main or supporting symptom, social and demographic characteristics.
Results: Data were recorded by 89 GPs on 1,428 consultations. The prevalence of fatigue was 25%. It was the main reason for attending the doctor in 6.5% and a secondary reason in 19%. Sixty-two per cent of patients were female and 48% were eligible for free GP services. The mean age was 47.1 years. The presence of fatigue was associated with: attending a female GP, being female, attending a GP who had been qualified for fewer years and attending the GP frequently.
Conclusion: The prevalence of fatigue reported in this study is over three times higher than that reported in earlier work. Doctor characteristics appear to be as important as patient characteristics in determining fatigue.