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1 in 50 16-year-olds affected by chronic fatigue syndrome

In what is believed to be the biggest study of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) — also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) — in children to date, researchers at the University of Bristol (UK), have found that almost 2 per cent of 16-year-olds have CFS lasting more than six months and nearly 3 per cent have CFS lasting more than three months (the UK definition). Those with CFS missed, on average, more than half a day of school every week.

The researchers looked at the condition in 5,756 participants in Children of the 90s and found that girls were almost twice as likely as boys to have the condition. This is because CFS/ME became more common in girls between 13 and 16 but not in boys. Children from families experiencing greater adversity were more likely to have the condition, dispelling the commonly held view that CFS is a ‘middle-class’ illness or ‘yuppie-flu’. The definition of adversity included poor housing, financial difficulties and a lack of practical and/or emotional support for the mother.

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