What makes women tired? A community sample

J Womens Health. 1998 Feb;7(1):69-76. doi: 10.1089/jwh.1998.7.69.


We aimed to determine the major health concerns or problems of women and their personal attributions for the causes of their primary health concerns. We used a survey of women from the Toronto area attending a women's health symposium. Completed questionnaires were returned by 153 (85%) of 180 women attendees. Persistent fatigue was the primary and most commonly cited health concern. Fatigue was ranked first by 42 (27.5%) women and among the top 10 concerns by 123 (80.4%) women. Women attributed their fatigue to a combination of home and outside work (63.4%), poor sleep (38.2%), lack of time for self (34.1%), lack of exercise (32.5%), financial worries (28.5%), relationship problems (22.0%), emotional causes (17.9%), care of ill family members (13.8%), lack of social or individual support (9.8%), poor physical health (8.9%), work in home or child care (3.3%), or gender bias/harassment (2.4%). Our subjects, women from the community, overwhelmingly endorsed social determinants as the cause of their persistent fatigue. Although depression and anxiety form the most robust associations with persistent fatigue in primary care and community studies, women in this sample ranked these factors in seventh place in their attributions. Similarly, although physicians often assume physical causes for fatigue, women rank physical health low in their own attributions. Given the high prevalence of fatigue in women and its impact on quality of life, more attention needs to be given to the social, systemic, and personal factors that women feel contribute to their fatigue to develop more effective interventions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Fatigue / epidemiology*
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Fatigue / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sampling Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology