The economic impact of ME/CFS: individual and societal costs

Dyn Med. 2008 Apr 8:7:6. doi: 10.1186/1476-5918-7-6.


Background: ME/CFS is characterized by debilitating fatigue in addition to other physical and cognitive symptoms. It is estimated to affect over 800,000 adults in the U.S. ME/CFS often results in diminished functionality and increased economic impact. The economic impact of an illness is generally divided into two categories: direct and indirect costs. Despite high prevalence rates and the disabling nature of the illness, few studies have examined the costs of ME/CFS at the individual and societal level. In fact, of the four studies examining the economic impact of ME/ME/CFS only two used a U. S. sample. The current study used community and tertiary samples to examine the direct costs of ME/CFS.

Methods: Using archival data, Study 1 examined the direct cost of ME/CFS in a community-based sample in Chicago. Study 2 estimated the direct cost of ME/CFS in a tertiary sample in Chicago. Both Study 1 and Study 2 assessed direct costs using office visit costs, medical test costs, and medication costs.

Results: For Study 1, the annual direct total cost per ME/CFS patient was estimated to be $2,342, with the total annual direct cost of ME/CFS to society being approximately $2 billion. In Study 2, the annual direct was estimated to be $8,675 per ME/CFS patient, with the total annual direct cost of ME/CFS to society being approximately $7 billion.

Conclusion: Using ME/CFS prevalence data of 0.42 and indirect costs estimates from Reynolds et al. (2004), the direct and indirect cost of ME/CFS to society was estimated to be $18,677,912,000 for the community sample and $23,972,300,000 for the tertiary sample. These findings indicate that whether or not individuals are recruited from a community or tertiary sample, ME/CFS imposes substantial economic costs.