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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Ethnic Backgrounds

People from ethnic backgrounds are at higher risk of contracting chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) than the general population, new research shows.

A study funded by the UK ‘s Medical Research Council, and published in the BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Medicine in March 2011, shows that there was a higher prevalence of CFS amongst people of Pakistani, Indian, or Black Caribbean backgrounds. The lowest prevalence was 0.8 percent amongst white people, and it was highest at 3.5 per cent in the Pakistani group.

The researchers, from several London and Manchester universities, examined data from 4,281 English adults. Additional factors associated with CFS, they found, include social strain, negative aspects of social support, physical inactivity, anxiety and depression.

“These associations together explain the higher risks among some ethnic groups,” the study concluded.

According to Professor Kamaldeep Bhui of the Centre for Psychiatry at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts, and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, “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 social difficulties and with poor social support, and ethnic minorities, especially in the Pakistani group studied, and that they are silently suffering.”

Age was also a factor, with the risk of CFS increasing by two per cent a year after the age of 35.

CFS, sometimes also called myalgic encephalomyelitis, is a debilitating condition characterised by unexplained fatigue that lasts for at least six months alongside headaches, unrefreshing sleep, muscle pain and memory and concentration problems.

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