Research abstract:

BACKGROUND: In the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort, chronic disabling fatigue lasting ≥6 months affected 1.3% of 13-year-olds, was equally common in boys and girls, and became more prevalent with increasing family adversity.

METHODS: ALSPAC data were used to estimate the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) at age 16 years, defined by parental report of unexplained disabling fatigue lasting ≥6 months. We investigated gender and a composite 14-item family adversity index as risk factors. School absence data were obtained from the National Pupil Database. Multiple imputation was used to address bias caused by missing data.

RESULTS: The prevalence of CFS was 1.86% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.47 to 2.24). After excluding children with high levels of depressive symptoms, the prevalence was 0.60% (95% CI: 0.37 to 0.84). Authorized school absences were much higher (mean difference: 35.6 [95% CI: 26.4 to 44.9] half-day sessions per academic year) and reported depressive symptoms were much more likely (odds ratio [OR]: 11.0 [95% CI: 5.92 to 20.4]) in children with CFS than in those without CFS. Female gender (OR: 1.95 [95% CI: 1.33 to 2.86]) and family adversity (OR: 1.20 [95% CI: 1.01 to 1.42] per unit family adversity index) were also associated with CFS.

CONCLUSIONS: CFS affected 1.9% of 16-year-olds in a UK birth cohort and was positively associated with higher family adversity. Gender was a risk factor at age 16 years but not at age 13 years or in 16-year-olds without high levels of depressive symptoms.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at Age 16 Years, by Simon M. Collin, Tom Norris, Roberto Nuevo, Kate Tilling, Carol Joinson, Jonathan A.C. Sterne, Esther Crawley in Pediatrics,
February 2016

University of Bristol press release, 25 January: 1 in 50 16-year-olds affected by chronic fatigue syndrome

In what is believed to be the biggest study of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) – also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) – in children to date, researchers at the University of Bristol, have found that almost 2 per cent of 16-year-olds have CFS lasting more than six months and nearly 3 per cent have CFS lasting more than three months (the UK definition). Those with CFS missed, on average, more than half a day of school every week.

The researchers looked at the condition in 5,756 participants in Children of the 90s and found that girls were almost twice as likely as boys to have the condition. This is because CFS/ME became more common in girls between 13 and 16 but not in boys. Children from families experiencing greater adversity were more likely to have the condition, dispelling the commonly held view that CFS is a ‘middle-class’ illness or ‘yuppie-flu’. The definition of adversity included poor housing, financial difficulties and a lack of practical and/or emotional support for the mother.

The researchers point out that the diagnosis of CFS was not made by a doctor but is based on responses to questionnaires sent to both the teenagers and their parents.

BBC news reports Dr Crawley as saying that “research showed it could be successfully treated with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in young people.” No link to this research was given: Chronic fatigue syndrome on rise among 16-year-olds 25 January 2016

Western Daily Press, 25 January 2016:‘Yuppie flu’ taking toll on teens

Times, 25 January 2016: One in 40 teenage girls has chronic fatigue

Sun, 25 January 2016: New research reveals that yuppie flu hits one in 50 teenagers


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