Myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome case definitions: effects of requiring a substantial reduction in functioning, by Samantha Scartozzi, Madison Sunnquist & Leonard A Jason in Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior [Published online: 01 Apr 2019]

Research abstract:

Background: Current case definitions for myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) require an individual to report a ‘substantial reduction’ in activity levels, when compared to premorbid functioning. However, little guidance is provided on how to measure these reductions, as well as what level of reduction should be deemed ‘substantial,’ leading to inconsistencies in how this criterion is applied across research settings.

Purpose: The current study examined the influence of substantial reduction criterion on case definitions.

Method: The current study analyzed an international convenience sample of 1002 individuals with ME or CFS, 53 healthy controls, and 260 controls with other chronic illnesses.

Results: Findings indicated that the utility of the substantial reduction criterion varied by case definition, with more stringent case definitions not needing this criterion to identify cases.

Conclusion: These results suggest that the requirement of a substantial reduction in functioning may be redundant when case definitions specify that individuals must endorse a set of core symptoms at specified frequency and severity levels.

Funding was provided by NIAID (grant number AI105781).

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