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BMJ. Mar 19, 1994; 308(6931): 763–766.
PMCID: PMC2539651

Population based study of fatigue and psychological distress.


OBJECTIVES--To determine the prevalence of fatigue in the general population and the factors associated with fatigue. DESIGN--Postal survey. SETTING--Six general practices in southern England. SUBJECTS--31,651 men and women aged 18-45 years registered with the practices. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Responses to the 12 item general health questionnaire and a fatigue questionnaire which included self reported measures of duration, severity, and causes of fatigue. RESULTS--15,283 valid questionnaires were returned, giving a response rate of 48.3%, (64% after adjustment for inaccuracies in the practice registers). 2798 (18.3%) of respondents reported substantial fatigue lasting six months or longer. Fatigue and psychological morbidity were moderately correlated (r = 0.62). Women were more likely to complain of fatigue than men, even after adjustment for psychological distress. The commonest cited reasons for fatigue were psychosocial (40% of patients). Of 2798 patients with excessive tiredness, only 38 (1.4%) attributed this to the chronic fatigue syndrome. CONCLUSION--Fatigue is distributed as a continuous variable in the community and is closely associated with psychological morbidity.

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