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The Prevalence of Pediatric Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in a Community-Based Sample



Most pediatric prevalence studies of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) have been based upon data from tertiary care centers, a process known for systematic biases such as excluding youth of lower socioeconomic status and those less likely to have access to health care. In addition, most pediatric ME/CFS epidemiologic studies have not included a thorough medical and psychiatric examination. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of pediatric ME/CFS from an ethnically and sociodemographically diverse community-based random sample.


A sample of 10,119 youth aged 5–17 from 5622 households in the Chicagoland area were screened. Following evaluations, a team of physicians made final diagnoses. Youth were given a diagnosis of ME/CFS if they met criteria for three selected case definitions. A probabilistic, multi-stage formula was used for final prevalence calculations.


The prevalence of pediatric ME/CFS was 0.75%, with a higher percentage being African American and Latinx than Caucasian. Of the youth diagnosed with ME/CFS, less than 5% had been previously diagnosed with the illness.


Many youth with the illness have not been previously diagnosed with ME/CFS. These findings point to the need for better ways to identify and diagnose youth with this illness.

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Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01 HD072208. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Leonard A. Jason.

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Jason, L.A., Katz, B.Z., Sunnquist, M. et al. The Prevalence of Pediatric Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in a Community-Based Sample. Child Youth Care Forum (2020).

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  • Pediatric
  • Epidemiology
  • Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome