Original Articles

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 9, Issue 7, pp 397-401

First online:

Gender differences in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Dedra BuchwaldAffiliated withthe Department of Medicine, University of Washington
  • , Tsilke PearlmanAffiliated withthe Department of Medicine, University of Washington
  • , Phalla KithAffiliated withChronic Fatigue Clinic, Harborview Medical Center
  • , Karen SchmalingAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington

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Objective: To determine whether there are differences between men and women patients who have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and, if so, to ascertain whether a gender-related pattern exists.

Design: A descriptive study of demographic, clinical, and psychosocial measures, the results of which were prospectively collected for patients who had CFS.

Setting: A university-based referral clinic devoted to the evaluation and management of chronic fatigue.

Patients: 348 CFS patients who had undergone complete medical evaluations.

Measures: Clinical variables included symptoms, physical examination findings, and laboratory results. Psychosocial assessment consisted of a structured psychiatric interview, the Medical Outcomes Study Shortform General Health Survey to assess functional status, the General Health Questionnaire to ascertain psychological distress, the Multidimensional Health Locus of Control, and measures of attribution, social support, and coping.

Main results: Overall, few gender-related differences were identified. Women had a higher frequency of tender or enlarged lymph nodes (60% versus 33%, p≤0.01) and fibromyalgia (36% versus 12%, p≤0.001) and lower scores on the physical functioning subscale of the Medical Outcomes Study Short-form General Health Survey (37.6 versus 52.2, p<0.01); men more often had pharyngeal inflammation (42% versus 22%, p≤0.001) and reported a higher lifetime prevalence of alcoholism (20% versus 9%, p≤0.01).

Conclusions: In general, demographic, clinical, and psychosocial factors do not distinguish men from women CFS patients.

Key words

chronic fatigue syndrome gender