A Bristol study has surveyed over 5,700 parents and children about their experience of persistent exhaustion. The study revealed that 2% of 16-year-olds are affected and of those there are almost twice as many girls as boys.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME) is a condition that causes ongoing, persistent fatigue that cannot be eased by rest or sleep.
The study, published in Pediatrics, found that one in 50 16-year-olds have the condition, persisting for over six months. It also found that one in 33 have the condition, persisting for over three months. Despite these findings, only one in 1,000 are diagnosed with CFS/ME.
The diagnoses made within this study were based on responses to questions in the survey and were not officially made by a medical professional.
The study found that at the age of 13 both boys and girls appear to be equally affected, however when they reach 16, the condition becomes more common in girls.
Interestingly, children from families with financial difficulties and poor housing were found to be more likely to report problems of persistent fatigue.
Dr Esther Crawley, a consultant paediatrician specialising in CFS and senior report author of the study explained that treatment for the condition is effective, however in the UK few have access to treatment.
“Children attending my specialist service only attend two days a week of school on average. This means that only the most severe cases are getting help.
“As paediatricians, we need to get better at identifying CFS/ME, particularly in those children from disadvantaged backgrounds who may be less able to access specialist care.”
She explained that experts still do not know how or indeed why the condition is triggered, but behavioural therapy has been found to help treat CFS in young people.
Chief executive of Action for ME, Sonya Chowdhury said this study points out the need for more effective treatments. She explains that many young people miss more than half a day of school each week and those who are severely affected find their symptoms compounded by the sense of isolation and loss that comes with being house/bed-bound.