Chronic Fatigue Syndrome More Common Among Teenagers

In the largest study to date looking at the prevalence of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in adolescents, researchers found that approximately 1 in 50 children aged 16 years have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome lasting at least 6 months.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a condition characterized by severe fatigue that shows no improvement with bed rest, and which may be exacerbated by physical or mental exertion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 million people in the US have CFS.

The results, published in the journal of Pediatrics, analyzed the data of 5,756 children who were part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort – also known as “Children of the 90s.” The study enrolled more than 14,000 expectant mothers in 1991-1992 and continues to track the health of mothers, their partners and their children.

Other interesting findings from the study highlighted:

  • Children with CFS missed around half a day of school each week as compared to children without CFS.
  • Children with CFS were more likely to come from families with greater adversity, defined by the researchers as families with poor housing, financial problems and mothers with lack of practical and/or emotional support.

The study brings to light numerous cases of CFS that may have been overlooked in adolescents. Medical professionals and CFS advocates are hopeful these results will bring about improved diagnosis and treatment for this population. “We are encouraged by the results of this study as, at last, our children, their families and those fighting for a diagnosis have the evidence they need. Evidence confirming the condition as being not only really common but, more significantly, evidence reflecting the high level of suffering with which they are forced to live,” Mary-Jane Willows, chief executive of Association of Young People with ME.

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