Co-occurrence and associations of pain and fatigue in a community sample of Dutch adults

Eur J Pain. 2010 Mar;14(3):327-34. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2009.05.010. Epub 2009 Jun 18.


Widespread pain and chronic fatigue are common in the general population. Previous research has demonstrated co-occurrence of syndromes that are associated with pain and fatigue (fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome), but there is limited existing data on the co-occurrence of these symptoms in general. This study investigates the co-occurrence of pain and fatigue, and characterises people with these symptoms individually, and in combination. A postal questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 4741 community dwelling Dutch adults registered with five general practices. There were 2447 participants (adjusted response=53.5%). Persistent fatigue was reported by 60% of the 451 subjects with chronic widespread pain. Chronic widespread pain was reported by 33% of the 809 responders with persistent fatigue. Anxiety and depression were more common in subjects who reported both symptoms than those who reported either one or neither. Participants who had chronic disease, high body mass index, low activity levels or did not perceive ability to influence health had higher adjusted odds of reporting both symptoms (but not one alone) than subjects not having these characteristics. Pain and fatigue occur more often than would be expected by chance and there are a number of reasons for this. Clinicians should be aware that co-occurrence of the symptoms is common, especially in people who have high BMI or chronic disease, and that people with both symptoms are often anxious or depressed. Further work should address longitudinal associations of pain and fatigue.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Fatigue / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires