- Chronic widespread pain and chronic fatigue commonly co-occur, share similar risk factors and are considered by some to be part of the same disorder.
- In this study not all putative associated factors were commonly associated with both disorders.
- The apparent common association appeared to be explained by the presence of common psychiatric disorders, anxiety and depression.
Chronic widespread pain and chronic fatigue share common associated factors but these associations may be explained by the presence of concurrent depression and anxiety.
We mailed questionnaires to a randomly selected sample of people in the UK to identify participants with chronic widespread pain (ACR 1990 definition) and those with chronic fatigue. The questionnaire assessed sociodemographic factors, health status, healthcare use, childhood factors, adult attachment, and psychological stress including anxiety and depression. To identify persons with unexplained chronic widespread pain or unexplained chronic fatigue; we examined participant’s medical records to exclude medical illness that might cause these symptoms.
Of 1443 participants (58.0% response rate) medical records of 990 were examined. 9.4% (N = 93) had unexplained chronic widespread pain and 12.6% (N = 125) had unexplained chronic fatigue. Marital status, childhood psychological abuse, recent threatening experiences and other somatic symptoms were commonly associated with both widespread pain and fatigue.
No common effect was found for few years of education and current medical illnesses (more strongly associated with chronic widespread pain) or recent illness in a close relative, neuroticism, depression and anxiety scores (more strongly associated with chronic fatigue). Putative associated factors with a common effect were associated with unexplained chronic widespread pain or unexplained chronic fatigue only when there was concurrent anxiety and/or depression.
This study suggests that the associated factors for chronic widespread pain and chronic fatigue need to be studied in conjunction with concurrent depression/anxiety. Clinicians should be aware of the importance of concurrent anxiety or depression.
Common and unique associated factors for medically unexplained chronic widespread pain and chronic fatigue, by J. McBeth, B. Tomenson, C.A. Chew-Graham, G.J. Macfarlane, J. Jackson, A. Littlewood, F.H. Creed in J Psychosom Res, 2015 Dec; 79(6): 484-91