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Ethnic minorities are 'silent sufferers' of chronic fatigue syndrome

Sunday 27 March 2011


From PhysOrg:


Ethnic minorities are 'silent sufferers' of chronic fatigue syndrome

March 21st, 2011 in Medicine & Health / Diseases

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by unexplained and debilitating tiredness and is associated with headaches, disrupted sleep, muscle pain and difficulty in concentrating. New research published by BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Medicine shows that ethnicity, depression, lack of exercise or social support, and social difficulties are major risk factors for CFS.

A multi-institute study funded by the Medical Research Council (UK), involving researchers across London and Manchester, looked at data from over 4000 adults living in England. The result of this study showed that, on average, there is a 2.3% risk of suffering from CFS and that risk increases with age by 2% per year from the age of 35. When the researchers compared the occurrence of CFS with medical factors and exercise they found that, while both depression and anxiety were associated with a much higher risk of CFS,  halved the risk.

Social status and adversity were also major risk factors along with cultural and . The incidence of CFS was highest amongst people who had the most difficulties with housing, finances, or had family problems, but this was balanced by levels of support within the community. Perceived cultural discrimination and insults in the workplace, or in society, along with racial and religious discrimination, were also much higher for CFS sufferers. Overall people with Pakistani, Indian or Black Caribbean backgrounds had a greater risk of CFS than the white population.

Professor Bhui from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary, University of London said, "Earlier studies, based on attendance at clinics, indicated that CFS is a disease of white, middle class people. Our results show that CFS is more common amongst the physically inactive, those with  and with poor social support, and ethnic minorities, especially in the Pakistani group studied, and that they are silently suffering."

More information: Chronic fatigue syndrome in an ethnically diverse population: the influence of psychosocial adversity & physical inactivity, Kamaldeep S Bhui, Sokratis Dinos, Deborah Ashby, James Nazroo, Simon Wessely, and Peter D White, 
BMC Medicine (in press)

Provided by BioMed Central


The above originally appeared here.


And this is the study the article referred to:


Chronic fatigue syndrome in an ethnically diverse population: the influence of psychosocial adversity & physical inactivity

Kamaldeep Bhui email, Sokratis Dinos email, Deborah Ashby email, James Nazroo email, Simon Wessely email and Peter White email

BMC Medicine 2011, 9:26doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-26

Published: 21 March 2011

Abstract (provisional)


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex multi-factorial disorder. This paper reports the prevalence of chronic fatigue & CFS in an ethnically diverse population sample, and tests whether prevalence varies by social adversity, social support, physical inactivity, anxiety, and depression.


Analysis of survey data linking the Health Survey for England (1998/9) and the EMPIRIC study, undertaken in 2000, of a national population sample of 4281 people aged 16-74. Chronic fatigue (CF) and CFS were operationally defined from an interview in the EMPIRIC study, alongside questions about psychosocial risk factors. Previous illnesses were reported in the Health Survey for England during 1998/9 as was physical inactivity.


All ethnic minority groups had a higher prevalence of CFS when compared with the white group. The lowest prevalence was 0.8% in the white group and was highest at 3.5% in the Pakistani group (OR (odds ratio) = 4.1, 95% CI (confidence interval)=1.6-10.4). Anxiety (OR=1.8, 1.4-2.2), depression (OR=1.4, 1.1-1.8), physical inactivity (OR=2.0, 1.1-3.8), social strain (OR=1.24, 1.04-1.48), and negative aspects of social support (OR=2.12, 1.4-3.3) were independent risk factors for CFS in the overall sample; together these risk factors explained ethnic differences in the prevalence of CFS, but no single risk factor could explain a higher prevalence in all ethnic groups.


The prevalence of CFS, but not chronic fatigue, varies by ethnic group. Anxiety, depression, physical inactivity, social strain, and negative aspects of social support together accounted for prevalence differences of CFS in the overall sample.

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.


The study originally appeared here.



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