Mortality of people with chronic fatigue syndrome: a retrospective cohort study in England and Wales from the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust Biomedical Research Centre (SLaM BRC) Clinical Record Interactive Search (CRIS) Register

Background

Mortality associated with chronic fatigue syndrome is uncertain. We investigated mortality in individuals diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in secondary and tertiary care using data from the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust Biomedical Research Centre (SLaM BRC) Clinical Record Interactive Search (CRIS) register.

Methods

We calculated standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) for all-cause, suicide-specific, and cancer-specific mortality for a 7-year observation period using the number of deaths observed in SLaM records compared with age-specific and sex-specific mortality statistics for England and Wales. Study participants were included if they had had contact with the chronic fatigue service (referral, discharge, or case note entry) and received a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Findings

We identified 2147 cases of chronic fatigue syndrome from CRIS and 17 deaths from Jan 1, 2007, to Dec 31, 2013. 1533 patients were women of whom 11 died, and 614 were men of whom six died. There was no significant difference in age-standardised and sex-standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) for all-cause mortality (SMR 1·14, 95% CI 0·65–1·85; p=0·67) or cancer-specific mortality (1·39, 0·60–2·73; p=0·45) in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome when compared with the general population in England and Wales. This remained the case when deaths from suicide were removed from the analysis. There was a significant increase in suicide-specific mortality (SMR 6·85, 95% CI 2·22–15·98; p=0·002).

Interpretation

We did not note increased all-cause mortality in people with chronic fatigue syndrome, but our findings show a substantial increase in mortality from suicide. This highlights the need for clinicians to be aware of the increased risk of completed suicide and to assess suicidality adequately in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Funding

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London.

Lancet, Volume 387, No. 10028, p1638–1643, 16 April 2016

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