Chronic fatigue (CFS) and fibromyalgia (FM) are impairing conditions that can greatly reduce quality of life. A recent study conducted by the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention, Public Health Agency of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada along with the National ME/FM Action Network has shed some light on the impact of these conditions on a population of affected people living in Canada.
FM is a commonly misdiagnosed and misunderstood musculoskeletal condition. It is a chronic disorder characterized by pain, often in localized body regions, and fatigue. CFS has an unknown cause. Symptoms of CFS include fever, aching, and prolonged tiredness and depression, and often occurs after a viral infection.
Not many prior studies have measured the impact on general health independently associated with CFS and FM.
Using data from the 2010 Canadian Community Health Survey, which polled 59,101 people, the researchers described the effects of diagnosed CFS and/or FM, on 6 different health status indicators. These indicators included: “fair/poor general health, fair/poor mental health, activity limitations, help needed for tasks, severe level of impairment and presence of pain.”
The scientists found that in 2010, CFS and FM were reported by 1.4%, respectively, of the Canadian household population 12 years and over. The percentage of people with both conditions was 0.3%. Both conditions occurred more often in women, adults 40 and over, people with low income, and people with specific risk factors. Risk factors included obesity, physical inactivity and smoking. People with CFS and/or FM experienced poorer overall health than people without the conditions on all of the health status indicators except the measure of fair/poor mental health. Having both of the medical problems was associated with even poorer health.
In their report the investigators state that “Co-occurrence of CFS and FM and having other chronic conditions were strongly related to poorer health status and accounted for much of the differences in health status. Understanding factors contributing to improved quality of life in people with CFS and/or FM, particularly in those with both conditions and other comorbidities, may be an important area for future research.”
Based on the study, CFS and FM clearly impact quality of life in several negative ways. More work is needed to determine how to create better and more productive lives for people with CFS and FM, and further studies regarding the causes of and treatments for these conditions are also greatly needed.
In addition, it is important to appreciate the additive impact of having both conditions, as noted by the researchers who wrote “Comorbidity as a driving force behind poorer health status cannot be ignored.”