Research: The impact of CFS/ME on employment and productivity in the UK, BMC Health Services Research, 15 September 2011

September 15, 2011

From BMC Health Services Research, open-access journal, 15 September 2011.

The impact of CFS/ME on employment and productivity in the UK: a cross-sectional study based on the CFS/ME National Outcomes Database

Simon M Collin , Esther Crawley , Margaret T May , Jonathan AC Sterne , William Hollingworth and Uk cfs/me National Outcomes Database

BMC Health Services Research 2011, 11:217doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-217

Abstract (provisional)


Few studies have investigated factors associated with discontinuation of employment in patients with CFS/ME or quantified its impact on productivity.


We used patient-level data from five NHS CFS/ME services during the period 01/04/2006-31/03/2010 collated in the UK CFS/ME National Outcomes Database. We used logistic regression to identify factors associated with discontinuation of employment. We estimated UK-wide productivity costs using patient-level data on duration of illness before assessment by a CFS/ME service, duration of unemployment, age, sex and numbers of patients, in conjunction with Office for National Statistics income and population data.


Data were available for 2,170 patients, of whom 1,669 (76.9%) were women. Current employment status was recorded for 1,991 patients (91.8%), of whom 811 patients (40.7%) were currently employed and 998 (50.1%) had discontinued their employment “because of fatigue-related symptoms”. Older age, male sex, disability, fatigue, pain, and duration of illness were associated with cessation of employment. In a multivariable model, age, male sex, and disability remained as independent predictors. Total productivity costs among the 2,170 patients due to discontinuation of employment in the years preceding assessment by a specialist CFS/ME service (median duration of illness = 36 months) were GBP49.2 million. Our sample was equivalent to 4,424 UK adults accessing specialist services each year, representing productivity costs to the UK economy of GBP102.2 million. Sensitivity analyses suggested a range between GBP75.5-GBP128.9 million.


CFS/ME incurs huge productivity costs among the small fraction of adults with CFS/ME who access specialist services.

4 thoughts on “Research: The impact of CFS/ME on employment and productivity in the UK, BMC Health Services Research, 15 September 2011”

  1. The lost tax take on £102m must be upwards of £10m. (In reality, I suspect that the figures are much higher.)
    It would therefore make good economic sense for the U.K. government to invest at least this much in biomedical research each year.
    Instead, they spend virtually nothing.

  2. Disease costs money. A neurological disease affecting more people than breast cancer, MS and HIV put together is going to cost plenty.

    But why are they conducting studies useing clinics that don’t define a disease and rely on subjective symptoms? When are they going to research ME?

    If they want to save money, they need to stop funding people of the Wessely School ilk and fund actual scientific research into the biology of the neurological disease ME. How else are we to discover affective treatments? They can start with a replication study on Lombardi et al., something that still no one has attempted to do.

    Instead they continue to fund predictable nonsense like this and push discredited CBT and GET, that has no evidence base for its use in ME or the fatigued people defined above in that paper.

  3. if i understand it right that is how much is lost just because we are unable to work so if benefits, medical cost, etc are added on it is so much more, this in itself should make the government want to do something about the situation and find the real courses behind this illness to make it better and get us back to work which is really were i personally want to be, i don’t want to be sick and unable to work, all my training is going to wast.

  4. According to Esther Crawley, who talks about this study on the West Country interview you link to elsewhere, prevalence is 2.6% of adults, which equates to 1.3 million individuals. That’s daft, in itself, but then she says that it costs the UK economy £103 million (per annum) which means each of us, and a lot more tired folk besides, costs less that £80 per year each…

    Who’s kidding whom?

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