Population based study of fatigue and psychological distress

BMJ. 1994 Mar 19;308(6931):763-6. doi: 10.1136/bmj.308.6931.763.


Objectives: To determine the prevalence of fatigue in the general population and the factors associated with fatigue.

Design: Postal survey.

Setting: Six general practices in southern England.

Subjects: 31,651 men and women aged 18-45 years registered with the practices.

Main outcome measures: Responses to the 12 item general health questionnaire and a fatigue questionnaire which included self reported measures of duration, severity, and causes of fatigue.

Results: 15,283 valid questionnaires were returned, giving a response rate of 48.3%, (64% after adjustment for inaccuracies in the practice registers). 2798 (18.3%) of respondents reported substantial fatigue lasting six months or longer. Fatigue and psychological morbidity were moderately correlated (r = 0.62). Women were more likely to complain of fatigue than men, even after adjustment for psychological distress. The commonest cited reasons for fatigue were psychosocial (40% of patients). Of 2798 patients with excessive tiredness, only 38 (1.4%) attributed this to the chronic fatigue syndrome.

Conclusion: Fatigue is distributed as a continuous variable in the community and is closely associated with psychological morbidity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • England / epidemiology
  • Fatigue / epidemiology*
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Fatigue / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*