Purpose: To estimate the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and describe characteristics of other fatiguing illnesses in adolescents (aged 12 through 17 years).
Methods: We conducted a random digit dialing survey of the residents of Wichita, Kansas. Adults identified fatigued adolescents in the household and answered questions relating to the child's health. Selected adolescents were invited to attend a clinic with a parent/guardian. After clinical evaluation they were classified as CFS or another fatigue state as defined in the 1994 CFS definition. Annual telephone interviews and clinical evaluations monitored subjects' fatigue status. Data were analyzed using the Kruskal-Wallis test, the Mantel-Haenszel test, and the exact McNemar test.
Results: The survey contacted 34,018 households with 90,316 residents. Of 8586 adolescents, 138 had fatigue for > or =1 month and most (107 or 78%) had chronic fatigue (> or =6 months) at some point during the 3-year follow-up. Twenty-eight had exclusionary diagnoses. Thirty-one were considered to have a CFS-like illness and were invited for clinical evaluation. Eleven agreed to participate and none met the CFS case definition. The baseline weighted prevalence of CFS-like illness was 338 per 100,000. Significant differences existed between parental and adolescents' descriptions of illness.
Conclusions: The prevalence of CFS among adolescents was considerably lower than among adults. Evaluation of CFS in adolescents must consider both parent and patient perception of fatigue and other illnesses that might explain the symptom complex.