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expert reaction to a new BMJ Open study on chronic fatigue and school absence

A new study, led by academics at the University of Bristol, investigated the possible link between school absence and incidence of chronic fatigue syndome.


Matthew Hotopf, Professor of General Hospital Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, said:

“I think the key messages are (a) that CFS is not uncommon as a cause of recurrent school absence, and therefore something to actively look for, (b) a lot of fatigue presenting in the school clinics is related to psychiatric disorder (depression), but about half looks like chronic unexplained fatigue; and (c) there’s everything to play for in terms of outcome for CFS in kids – the evidence from clinic samples of children and adolescents is that the short to middle term outcome is markedly better than in adults and a high proportion recover. This study demonstrates that about 2/3 had recovered by six months, and that’s a really important message for families and GPs.”


Peter White, Professor of Psychological Medicine, Centre for Psychiatry, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London , said:

“This well conducted study shows that schoolchildren who miss school without explanation fall between the stools of school and the health service, and do so for two main reasons: emotional ill health and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Both of these can delay or even prevent a child from reaching their educational and personal potential. As the authors suggest, we now need to confirm whether screening followed by treatment, such as provided in this study, can benefit these children.”


Trudie Chalder, Professor of Cognitive behavioural Psychotherapy, King’s College London and Director CFS Research and Treatment Unit, South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, said:

“The recovery rate of children with CFS/ME is good. Important to treat early to prevent worsening disability. Good outcomes can be expected if children are referred to secondary care and given the right sort of support and advice. All very good news for children with CFS/ME and their families.”


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