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Prevalence and characteristics of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) in Poland: a cross-sectional study
  1. Joanna Słomko1,
  2. Julia L Newton2,
  3. Sławomir Kujawski1,
  4. Małgorzata Tafil-Klawe3,
  5. Jacek Klawe1,
  6. Donald Staines4,
  7. Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik4,
  8. Pawel Zalewski1
  1. 1 Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Ergonomy, Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika Collegium Medicum, Bydgoszcz, Poland
  2. 2 Institute for Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK
  3. 3 Department of Human Physiology, Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika Collegium Medicum, Bydgoszcz, Poland
  4. 4 Medical Sciences, Griffith University, Southport, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Prof Pawel Zalewski; p.zalewski{at}


Objectives The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) and describe illness characteristics in a community population in Poland. Design: cross-sectional study.

Setting Poland.

Participants Of the cohort of 1400 who self-presented with fatigue only 69 subsequently were confirmed as having CFS/ME using the Fukuda criteria.

Main outcome measures Participants completed the following screening symptom assessment tools: Chalder Fatigue Scale, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), Composite Autonomic Symptom Score 31 (COMPASS 31), Quality of Life Scale (QOLS). Haemodynamic and autonomic parameters were automatically measured at rest with a Task Force Monitor.

Results In 1308, from 1400 (93%) individuals who identified themselves as fatigued, recognised chronic conditions were identified, for example, neurological (n=280, 21.5%), neurodegenerative (n=200, 15%), psychiatric (n=654, 50%) and immunologic (n=174, 13.5%) disorders. The remaining 69 participants (mean age 38.3±8.5) met the Fukuda defintion for CFS/ME and had baseline objective assessment. The majority had experienced symptoms for over 2 years with 37% having symptoms for 2–5 years and 21.7% for more than 10 years. The COMPASS 31 indicated that 50% have symptoms consistent with orthostatic intolerance. About 43/69 (62%) had Epworth sleepiness scores ≥10, ie, consistent with excessive daytime sleepiness, 26/69 (38%) had significant anxiety and 22/69 (32%) depression measured by HADS A & D. Quality of life is significantly impaired in those with Fukuda criteria CFS (QLS score 64±11) with significant negative relationships between quality of life and fatigue (p<0.0001), anxiety (p=0.0009), depression (p<0.0001) and autonomic symptoms (p=0.04).

Conclusion This is the first study to summarise illness characteristics of Polish CFS/ME patients. Our study has confirmed that fatigue is a common and under-recognised symptom affecting the Polish population.

  • epidemiology
  • quality of life
  • prevalence
  • chronic fatigue

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  • Contributors JS, DS, SM-G and PZ were involved in writing of the manuscript. JS, PZ, JK and MT-K conceived and supervised the study. SK and PZ provided statistical advice. JS, PZ, JLN, DS and SM-G contributed conceived, designed and performed the experiments, collected and analyzed the data, revising it critically for important intellectual content and final approval of the version to be submitted.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Ethics Committee, Ludwik Rydygier MemorialCollegium Medicum in Bydgoszcz, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

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