Factors associated with work status in chronic fatigue syndrome

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Background: Work status in people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has not been extensively researched.

Aims: To explore occupational outcomes in patients with CFS by socio-demographic, wellbeing and disease characteristics.

Methods: We assessed cross-sectional data from patients attending a UK specialist CFS treatment service between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2014. The main outcome was self-reported current employment status: currently in employment, temporarily interrupted employment or permanently interrupted employment. Other variables included sex, age, ethnicity, education, marital status, CFS duration, fatigue severity, anxiety, depression, activity limitations and functional impairment. We used multinominal logistic regression models to identify factors associated with current work status.

Results: Two hundred and seventy none (55%) patients were currently working,, with 83 (16%) reporting temporarily interrupted employment and 146 (29%) stopping work altogether. Factors strongly associated with permanently interrupted employment were older age (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 5.24; 95% CI 2.67-10.28), poorer functioning (AOR 6.41; 95% CI 3.65-11.24) and depressive symptoms (AOR 2.89; 95% CI 1.82-4.58) compared to patients currently working. Higher educated patients (AOR 0.60; 95% CI 0.37-0.97) and being in a relationship (AOR 0.34; 95% CI 0.21-0.54) were associated with being currently employed. Anxiety symptoms were common; 230 patients (45%) met caseness criteria.

Conclusions: Many patients with CFS were not working. This was exacerbated by high levels of depressive symptoms. Health professionals should assess co-morbid mental health conditions and consider treatment options when patients with CFS present themselves. The early involvement of occupational health practitioners is recommended to maximise the chances of maintaining employment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-458
Number of pages6
JournalOccupational Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • employment
  • mental disorders
  • occupation
  • well-being


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