Purpose: To measure the functional status and well-being of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and compare them with those of a general population group and six disease comparison groups.
Patients and methods: The subjects of the study were patients with CFS (n = 223) from a CFS clinic, a population-based control sample (n = 2,474), and disease comparison groups with hypertension (n = 2,089), congestive heart failure (n = 216), type II diabetes mellitus (n = 163), acute myocardial infarction (n = 107), multiple sclerosis (n = 25), and depression (n = 502). We measured functional status and well-being using the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36), which is a self-administered questionnaire in which lower scores are indicative of greater impairment.
Results: Patients with CFS had far lower mean scores than the general population control subjects on all eight SF-36 scales. They also scored significantly lower than patients in all the disease comparison groups other than depression on virtually all the scales. When compared with patients with depression, they scored significantly lower on all the scales except for scales measuring mental health and role disability due to emotional problems, on which they scored significantly higher. The two SF-36 scales reflecting mental health were not correlated with any of the symptoms of CFS except for irritability and depression.
Conclusion: Patients with CFS had marked impairment, in comparison with the general population and disease comparison groups. Moreover, the degree and pattern of impairment was different from that seen in patients with depression.