OBJECTIVE. The objective of this study was to describe the incidence, prevalence, risk factors, and prognosis of fatigue, chronic fatigue, and chronic fatigue syndrome in 11- to 15-year-olds.

METHODS. A random general population sample (n = 842) of British adolescents and their parents were assessed at baseline and 4 to 6 months later. The main outcomes were fatigue, chronic fatigue, and chronic fatigue syndrome, operationally defined.

RESULTS. The incidence over 4 to 6 months was 30.3% for fatigue, 1.1% for chronic fatigue, and 0.5% for chronic fatigue syndrome. The point prevalence was 34.1% and 38.1% for fatigue, 0.4% and 1.1% for chronic fatigue, and 0.1% and 0.5% for chronic fatigue syndrome at time 1 and time 2, respectively. Of participants who were fatigued at time 1, 53% remained fatigued at time 2. The 3 cases of chronic fatigue and 1 case of chronic fatigue syndrome at time 1 had recovered by time 2. Higher risk for development of chronic fatigue at time 2 was associated with time 1 anxiety or depression, conduct disorder, and maternal distress; in multivariate analysis, baseline anxiety or depression remained a significant predictor of chronic fatigue. Increased risk for development of fatigue at time 2 was associated with time 1 anxiety or depression, conduct disorder, and older age; in multivariate analyses, these factors and female gender all were significant predictors of fatigue.

CONCLUSIONS. The incidence rates for chronic fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome in this adolescent sample were relatively high, but the prognosis for these conditions was good. This prospective study provides evidence for an association between emotional/behavioral problems and subsequent onset of fatigue/chronic fatigue.

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