There is a dearth of research examining mortality in individuals with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Some studies suggest there is an elevated risk of suicide and earlier mortality compared to national norms. However, findings are inconsistent.
This study sought to determine if patients are reportedly dying earlier than the overall population from the same cause.
Family, friends, and caregivers of deceased patients were recruited. This study analyzed data including cause and age of death for 56 individuals.
The findings suggest patients in this sample are at a significantly increased risk of earlier all-cause (M = 55.9 years) and cardiovascular-related (M = 58.8 years) mortality, and they had a directionally lower age of death for suicide (M = 41.3 years) and cancer (M = 66.3 years) compared to the overall U.S. population [M = 73.5 (all-cause), 77.7 (cardiovascular), 47.4 (suicide), and 71.1 (cancer) years of age].
Results suggest there is an increase in risk for earlier mortality in patients. Due to sample size and over-representation of severely ill patients, the findings should be replicated to determine if the directional differences for suicide and cancer mortality are significantly different from the overall population.
Extract: As stated, several factors may contribute to an individual with ME or CFS having suicidal thoughts or actions and the development of depression-like symptoms including: lack of treatment options and low recovery rates [59–61]; increased levels of pain and disability [33,41]; greatly diminished QOL [39,41,54]; stigma and the beliefs sometimes held by family, friends, and even physicians that the illness is not real or is just depression [62– 65]; job loss and subsequent poverty [66,67]; and social and familial isolation [68,69].
McInnis et al.  found that patients with ME and CFS experience unsupportive social interactions significantly more often than healthy individuals or patients with more legitimized autoimmune illnesses (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis) so they are experiencing people telling them that they are overreacting or are emotionally and physically abandoning the patient.
Mortality in patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome, by Stephanie L. McManimen, Andrew R. Devendorf, Abigail A. Brown, Billie C. Moore, James H. Moore & Leonard A. Jason in Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior [Published online: October 12, 2016]