TGI Friday! Our latest round-up of ME/CFS research studies, 26 August 2011

August 26, 2011

CFS prevalence and risk factors over time.

Jason LA, Porter N, Hunnell J, Rademaker A, Richman JA.

J Health Psychol. 2011 Apr;16(3):445-56. Epub 2011 Jan 11.


DePaul University, USA.


The present natural history study examined the course of CFS from 1995-97 (Wave 1) to approximately 10 years later (Wave 2) from a random, community-based, multi-ethnic population. The rate of CFS remained approximately the same over the period of time from Wave 1 to Wave 2, although a high level of mortality was found (18% of those with medical or psychiatric exclusions group, 12.5% for the CFS group). Physical measures of disability and fatigue, along with measures of specific somatic symptoms, better differentiate individuals who later are diagnosed with CFS than more psychosocial measures such as stress and coping.


Psychopathology and physical activity as predictors of chronic fatigue syndrome in the 1958 british birth cohort: a replication study of the 1946 and 1970 birth cohorts.

Goodwin L, White PD, Hotopf M, Stansfeld SA, Clark C.

Ann Epidemiol. 2011 May;21(5):343-50.


Centre for Psychiatry, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.



In this study, we investigate whether prospective associations between psychopathology, physical activity, and chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) observed in the 1946 and 1970 birth cohorts were replicable in the 1958 British birth cohort.


Prospective study using the 1958 British birth cohort, which included 98.7% of births from 1 week in March 1958 in England, Wales, and Scotland. The outcome was self-reported CFS/ME by the age of 42 years, at which point 11,419 participants remained in the study. Psychopathology was assessed by the Rutter scales in childhood and the Malaise Inventory in adulthood. Physical activity was reported by the cohort member, mother and teacher in childhood and adulthood.


The prevalence of CFS/ME was 1.0% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.9-1.3) and the median age of onset was 34 years. Premorbid psychopathology at 23 years (odds ratio [OR] = 1.85, 95% CI = 1.06-3.22) and 33 years (OR = 2.81, 95% CI = 1.28-6.18) significantly increased the odds of developing CFS/ME, supporting the 1946 cohort findings. Childhood psychopathology, sedentary behavior in childhood, and persistent exercise in adulthood were not associated with CFS/ME.


In cohort studies premorbid psychopathology in adulthood is a replicated risk marker for CFS/ME, whereas premorbid extremes of physical activity are not.


Factors influencing engagement of patients in a novel intervention for CFS/ME: a qualitative study.

Chew-Graham C, Brooks J, Wearden A, Dowrick C, Peters S.

Prim Health Care Res Dev. 2011 Apr;12(2):112-22.


School of Community-Based Medicine, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.



To establish what factors are important for patients to engage in a new intervention for chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) and make recommendations to general practitioners (GPs) on preparing a patient for referral to such a service.


NICE guidelines recommend a prominent role for primary care in the management of patients with CFS/ME, with prompt diagnosis and appropriate referral for evidence-based treatments.


A qualitative study nested within a multi-centre randomised controlled trial of two new nurse therapist delivered interventions. Semi-structured interviews carried out with 19 patients who had received pragmatic rehabilitation (PR) in the trial. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and an iterative approach used to develop themes from the data set.


Factors that influence whether or not a patient engages with PR for CFS/ME are ensuring that the patient feels accepted and believed, that they accept the diagnosis, and that the model implicated by the treatment offered to the patient matches the model of illness held by the patient. If patients hold a clearly incompatible model of their illness, it is unlikely that they will engage with, and successfully complete, therapy. It is vital that the GP elicits and explores such illness beliefs either before making a referral to maximise patient engagement in therapy, or that an initial session with the therapist explores attitudes to the treatment model offered and then works with the patient's model.

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