Background: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating illness with no known cause or effective therapy. Population-based epidemiologic data on CFS prevalence and incidence are critical to put CFS in a realistic context for public health officials and others responsible for allocating resources and for practicing physicians when examining and caring for patients.
Methods: We conducted a random digit-dialing survey and clinical examination to estimate the prevalence of CFS in the general population of Wichita, Kan, and a 1-year follow-up telephone interview and clinical examination to estimate the incidence of CFS. The survey included 33 997 households representing 90 316 residents. This report focuses on 7162 respondents aged 18 to 69 years. Fatigued (n = 3528) and randomly selected nonfatigued (n = 3634) respondents completed telephone questionnaires concerning fatigue, other symptoms, and medical history. The clinical examination included the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, laboratory testing, and a physical examination.
Results: The overall weighted point prevalence of CFS, adjusted for nonresponse, was 235 per 100,000 persons (95% confidence interval, 142-327 per 100,000 persons). The prevalence of CFS was higher among women, 373 per 100,000 persons (95% confidence interval, 210-536 per 100,000 persons), than among men, 83 per 100,000 persons (95% confidence interval, 15-150 per 100,000 persons). Among subjects nonfatigued and fatigued for less than 6 months, the 1-year incidence of CFS was 180 per 100,000 persons (95% confidence interval, 0-466 per 100,000 persons).
Conclusions: Chronic fatigue syndrome constitutes a major public health problem. Longitudinal follow-up of this cohort will be used to further evaluate the natural history of this illness.