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

Leonard A. Jason*, Ben Z. Katz, Madison Sunnquist, Chelsea Torres, Joseph Cotler, Shaun Bhatia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: 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. Method: 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. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-579
Number of pages17
JournalChild and Youth Care Forum
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Epidemiology
  • Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Pediatric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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