Background: Fatigue is a prevalent and significant symptom among adolescents. To date, there has been limited research on the characteristics of fatigue in adolescents.

Purpose: Because no similar studies have been conducted in a primary care sample, the aim of this study is to describe the prevalence of prolonged fatigue, CFS-like illness, and associated symptom patterns in adolescents attending primary care. It is hypothesized that prolonged fatigue will be associated with older age, greater fatigue severity, and viral symptoms.

Methods: The design was cross-sectional and correlational. A questionnaire assessing fatigue and associated symptoms was administered to 901 adolescents (aged 11-18) attending 12 primary care clinics. Based on responses to this questionnaire, prevalence rates for prolonged fatigue and CFS-like illness were calculated. Univariate comparisons involving sociodemograpic data and fatigue severity were made between adolescents with and without prolonged fatigue, and sociodemographic and symptom predictors of prolonged fatigue were identified using logistic regression analysis.

Results: Prolonged fatigue (> 1 month) occurred at a rate of 8.0% and CFS-like illness (prolonged fatigue + at least four of the eight Fukuda et al., 1994 [1] CFS symptoms) occurred at a rate of 4.4%. Univariate analyses revealed that adolescents with prolonged fatigue were significantly older and also reported greater fatigue severity than those without fatigue. Findings from logistic regression indicated that, in addition to increasing age, headaches, muscle pains, fever, and fatigue made worse by exercise were significantly associated with prolonged fatigue.

Conclusions: Abnormal fatigue is a disabling and prevalent condition in primary care. It is associated with a number of additional symptoms, many of which may have viral origins.

Key Words: fatigue, primary care, adolescents

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