Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

The epidemiology of fatigue and depression: a French primary-care study

Rebecca Fuhrera1 c1 and Simon Wesselya1

a1 Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM Unité 360), France; Institute of Psychiatry, London

SYNOPSIS

The prevalence of fatigue as a presenting complaint and as a symptom is evaluated in French general practice patients. The data for a sample of 3784 persons 18–64 years-of-age who were seen by 367 general practitioners were examined for fatigue as a presenting complaint, diagnosis, and reported symptoms of persistent fatigue. Gender, age, and socio-professional category were considered as potential risk correlates. At least one of the symptoms of persistent fatigue was reported by 41·2% of the patients, but only 7·6% had presented with fatigue to the doctor. Women reported more symptoms of fatigue than men, but they were only slightly more likely to present with, or be diagnosed with fatigue; women were more frequently diagnosed with depression. There was a strong relationship between the symptoms of depression as measured by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies – Depression Scale (CES-D) and fatigue, but fatigue was neither sensitive nor specific for the diagnosis of depression. Age and fatigue as a presenting complaint and diagnosis were strongly associated for men. After adjusting for sex and age, we found that lower social classes were less likely to be diagnosed as fatigued, though they were more likely to report symptoms of fatigue.

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Rebecca Fuhrer, INSERM U. 360, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, 47 Bd de l'Hôpital, 75651 Paris Cedex 13, France.

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