Background: Scant research has adequately addressed the impact of chronic fatigue syndrome on patients' daily activities and quality of life. Enumerating specific problems related to quality of life in chronic fatigue syndrome patients can help us to better understand and manage this illness. This study addresses issues of functional status in persons with chronic fatigue syndrome and other fatiguing illnesses in a population based sample, which can be generalized to all persons with chronic fatigue.
Methods: We conducted a random telephone survey in Wichita, Kansas to identify persons with chronic fatigue syndrome and other fatiguing illnesses. Respondents reporting severe fatigue of at least 1 month's duration and randomly selected non-fatigued respondents were asked to participate in a detailed telephone interview. Participants were asked about symptoms, medical and psychiatric illnesses, and about physical, social, and recreational functioning. Those meeting the 1994 chronic fatigue syndrome case definition, as determined on the basis of their telephone responses, were invited for clinical evaluation to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. For this analysis, we evaluated unemployment due to fatigue, number of hours per week spent on work, chores, and other activities (currently and prior to the onset of fatigue), and energy level.
Results: There was no difference between persons with chronic fatigue syndrome and persons with a chronic fatigue syndrome-like illness that could be explained by a medical or psychiatric condition for any of the outcomes we measured except for unemployment due to fatigue (15% vs. 40%, P <.01). Persons with chronic fatigue syndrome and other fatiguing illnesses had substantially less energy and spent less time on hobbies, schooling, or volunteer work than did non-fatigued controls (P <.01).
Conclusions: Persons with chronic fatigue syndrome are as impaired as persons whose fatigue could be explained by a medical or psychiatric condition, and they have less energy than non-fatigued controls.